Docking is the surgical removal of a dog’s tail. When performed on young puppies the procedure is generally done without anaesthetic and there is good scientific evidence to show that docking causes severe and long lasting pain. There is also evidence that the tail remains more sensitive to pain for life in some dogs. Dogs use their tails as a means of communication and so docking deprives them of some of the body language they need to communicate with other dogs. It is illegal for anyone other than a veterinary surgeon to dock puppies’ tails.
The law on tail docking is different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Docking is completely banned in Scotland except when necessary as a result of disease or injury. In Northern Ireland docking is allowed as long as it is done by a a veterinary surgeon.
In England and Wales docking is banned except for certified ‘working dogs’ and because of disease or injury. The requirements that a bitch owner needs for the pups to be classified as a ‘working dog’ are set out in Regulations which can be found at online separately for England (opens pdf) and Wales (opens pdf). The Regulations also stipulate what breeds of dog may be docked.
Once a dog has been legally docked the puppy must be microchipped by the time it is three months old and provided with a certificate signed by the veterinary surgeon who undertook the docking. The certificate should be given to the new owner of the puppy. However owning a dog that has been docked is not, in itself, an offence providing that the person did not ask for the dog to be docked.