Rosie and Socks are Jack Russell Terrier puppies

Background: The two pups are amongst the first terrier pups in Ireland whose tails have been saved by a new Irish law

When Seb decided to buy two Miniature Jack Russell pups earlier this month, he wanted to make sure that the pups had full tails. He searched on online advertising sites for terriers with tails, but he found it surprisingly difficult to check for this. In the photographs of puppies, the tails (or lack of tails) were often out of sight. The only way that Seb could be certain about the pups was to visit the breeder to see them for himself. He was delighted when he discovered that these two pups’ tails had been left alone.

The tradition of docking puppies’ tails is an ancient one: this means chopping the tails off when they are just two or three days old. There is no logical reason for it: it’s a cosmetic procedure, done because people “like the look” of a dog without a tail.

Myths about tail docking

Hundreds of years ago, people believed myths about tail docking: it was said to prevent rabies, strengthen the back, increase the dog’s speed, and prevent injuries when hunting. All of these beliefs have long since been shown to be untrue. Additionally, over two hundred years ago, a tax was charged on working dogs with tails, so  dogs were docked to avoid paying the tax. Over the centuries, tail docking began to be seen as “normal” in many breeds of dog, from terriers to Boxers to Rottweilers and many others.

Tail docking is a brutal procedure: a pair of scissors or a sharp knife is used to slice off the tail when the pup is two or three days of age, or a tight elastic ring is applied to the base of the tail. No anaesthetic is used, and the pup squeals loudly, because it hurts. The tail has a rich nerve supply, and chopping it off is the equivalent of slicing off the little finger of a young baby. It was always said that the pups were “too young to feel it”, but it’s more accurate to say that they are too small and weak to do anything about it.

In the past thirty years, there has been a gradual movement against tail docking. In other countries, the law has been changed to protect puppies. In England and Wales, it has been illegal to dock pet dogs’ tails since 2006, although it is still permissible to dock the tails of some working dogs. Similar legislation has been in place in Northern Ireland since 2011. In Scotland, it is now illegal to dock the tail of any dogs, working or otherwise.

Tail docking in Ireland

Here in Ireland, there was an anomaly until recently. Vets were ethically banned by the Veterinary Council from docking pups’ tails, but members of the public were allowed to do it. This has all changed since 6th March 2014 when the new Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 was signed into law. It is now illegal for members of the public to dock puppies’ tails. In specific circumstances, vets may now be allowed to dock the tails of some hunting dogs, but even this is likely to be reviewed in the near future.

From now on, all pet dogs, of all breeds, will have long tails. Anyone who docks their tails is breaking the law, and will be prosecuted for cruelty to animals.

Seb is delighted to have two terrier pups with long tails. The pups use their tails to communicate, to balance and to keep themselves warm when curled up sleeping. Dogs are meant to have tails, and it’s great news that the law in Ireland now stops people from chopping them off.

Tips

  • Tail docking of pet dogs is now illegal in Ireland
  • If anyone comes across a puppy with a docked tail, they should report the owner to the authorities
  • Call the ISPCA’s National Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515515 or the Department of Agriculture Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1850 211 990

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