Scotland politics

Gamekeepers want tail docking ban overturned for working dogs

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Media captionGamekeepers argue the ban should be overturned for working dogs

A petition calling on the Scottish government to reverse a ban on tail docking for working dogs is due to be submitted at Holyrood later.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said Alex Salmond promised such a move if it could be backed up by evidence.

The group said many dogs suffered agonising tail injuries while working in thick undergrowth.

Animal rights charity OneKind said docking the tails of puppies caused "pain and distress".

The docking of dogs' tails was banned in Scotland in 2007. There is also a ban in England and Wales, but it does not apply to working dogs.

The exemption was included in legislation south of the border because of the risk of injury to dogs while they are retrieving game birds from thick brambles or gorse.

'Irrefutable evidence'

At the Scottish Parliament later, gamekeepers will deliver a petition to Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead calling for the law here to be reviewed.

They said they agreed dogs should not be docked for cosmetic reasons but argued an exemption for working dogs in Scotland is long overdue, and was promised by the first minister several years ago.

They point to research by Glasgow University, which has not yet been published, which they say will show the extent of tail injuries suffered by working dogs since the practice of docking was made illegal in Scotland in 2007.

Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, told BBC Scotland: "This is just for working dogs, especially hunt-point retrievers and spaniels."

Mr Hogg said: "We need to change this legislation. It is really bad for animal welfare.

"I had to go an get a wee puppy myself last year and I had to buy her south of the border because there was absolutely no way I was going to put her through the pain that might be inflicted by a long tail."

Libby Anderson from animal protection charity OneKind said: "Tail-docking of puppies may appear to be a simple procedure but it still causes pain and distress to very young animals."

"If the Scottish government is to change the law on tail-docking, it will have to have irrefutable evidence that routine use of this mutilation on puppies would definitely prevent suffering in adult working dogs.

"Until the research is published, and correctly interpreted, we do not have such evidence.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Animal welfare is extremely important and any decision taken by the Scottish government fully considers the welfare of each and every animal affected.

"That is why the Scottish government brought in legislation to protect dogs from the suffering caused by un-necessary tail docking and why - when the issue was raised with us - we then funded research into tail injuries in undocked working dogs.

"We expect that research to be published in the next few weeks and it will provide a sound basis to discuss whether further action needs to be taken to protect working dogs from injury."

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