SNP members call for debate on reversal of puppy tail docking decision

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 October 2017 in News

Council groups call for debate on tail docking decision at SNP conference 

Working spaniel by Jamie Montgomery

Councillors and activists will try to debate the controversial decision to relax the ban on tail docking of working dogs at the weekend's SNP conference.

Scotland's ban on the amputation or shortening of puppy's tails was relaxed in June after SNP and Conservative MSPs voted to allow exemptions for dogs involved in shooting sports.

The move was backed by gamekeepers but opposed by the British Veterinary Association, the Dogs Trust and animal welfare charities.


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SNP members including former deputy leader candidate Councillor Chris McEleny, Christine Graeme MSP and the council groups in Edinburgh and Inverclyde will seek to debate a reversal of the decision at the party's Autumn conference in Glasgow, which begins on Sunday.

McEleny said the issue was "a hot topic" among members he'd spoken to at 50 branches around Scotland.

"It is clear to me that many SNP members, supporters and indeed people across the country do not agree that tail docking should be introduced," he said.

"This is a topical issue and I think that we should give party members the opportunity to voice their opinion and as a party we should have an informed debate that lets us set our view on it."

The amendments to the ban mean that the tails of Spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies can be docked by a maximum of one third in length if a vet thinks the dog may injure it in its working life.

When the amendment was passed by parliament, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "We firmly believe that shortening the tails of puppies that are at risk of tail injury while engaged in lawful shooting activities in later life will improve the welfare of those dogs."

McEleny questioned the reasonning.

"If there is evidence that the welfare of ‘working’ dogs is being jeopardised because of the existing ban perhaps we should be looking more into why in 2017, as a country, we are comfortable with animals being hunted for sport in the first place," he said.

The Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals said tail docking could lead to poor health and distress in puppies.

Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, "Our position on the laws on tail docking in Scotland remains unchanged.  We support a total ban on the docking of dogs’ tails and believe that no dog should have its tail docked for any reason other than immediate veterinary need.

"We do not agree with the recent change in Scottish law and believe it was a backward step for animal welfare in Scotland."

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