Calls for docking laws to be overturned

Alex Hogg, chairman of Scottish Gamekeeper Association.
Alex Hogg, chairman of Scottish Gamekeeper Association.

A PEEBLESHIRE gamekeeper is calling for the law on banning the docking of working dogs’ tails to be overturned.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) chairman Alex Hogg wants Scottish Government to push through legislation to bring the country into line with the rest of the UK.

He said: “People in the countryside are very angry about this and rightly so. The fact Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK when it comes to the welfare of these animals is embarrassing.”

Mr Hogg said his daughter’s Hungarian Vizsla had a tail injury which wouldn’t heal: “We literally had to clean blood off the walls every time she expressed feelings by wagging her tail. After 12 months of misery, she had to have the tail amputated at a cost of hundreds of pounds. What was the point of that suffering when puppies’ tails can be docked in the first days of their lives and the animals never know anything about it?

“It is a cruel and unnecessary ruling put in place by people with very little knowledge or understanding of how Scotland’s countryside operates.”

The SGA said First Minister Alex Salmond promised five years ago that the ban, introduced by the previous administration, would be overturned if the evidence supported it.

And the Scottish Government commissioned a study by Glasgow University Veterinary School into the prevalence of tail injuries in working dogs such as spaniels, retrievers and terriers.

But Mr Hogg said: “Despite government advising in early November last year that the results would be available within six weeks, there has been no movement.

“Patience is running out. If nothing is done, the government will find rural votes disappearing because people in the countryside view this issue as another attack on their way of life.”

The Northern Irish Government introduced a ban on cosmetic tail docking on January 1 but drafted an exemption for working dogs. England and Wales also have exemptions in place on welfare grounds. But countryside workers caught docking in Scotland face a £5,000 fine and six months in prison if found guilty.

Scottish Countryside Alliance is also calling for change with director Jamie Stewart saying this week: “Animal welfare considerations mean a working dog exemption in Scotland is the only way forward.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said yesterday: “Tail docking is a complex and emotive issue, but it would be inappropriate to make a decision to alter legislation without properly peer reviewed scientific evidence to inform any change.

“That is why we commissioned research from the University of Glasgow looking at the incidence of tail injuries in working dogs in Scotland, specifically spaniels, hunt point retrievers and terriers.

“The project has now been completed and the results will be submitted for publication in peer reviewed journals. We will consider the matter further once the results have been accepted as robust.”