5. Tails You Win (03/2008)
The case for allowing all dogs to retain their tails has been strengthened by a new ruling by the South African Veterinary Council: TAIL DOCKING will of July 2007 be declared an unethical procedure, and if performed by a veterinarian, that veterinarian could be charged with unprofessional, improper or disgraceful conduct.
Much public opinion on tail docking needs to be swayed into accepting that it is not ‘normal’ to cut off the tails of certain dog breeds for ‘aesthetic’ reasons as a matter of course. This illegal procedure is conducted routinely, without anaesthesia or pain relief by laymen and many qualified veterinary surgeons, contravening the Animal Protection Act 71 of 1962 which states that it is a criminal offence to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal.
There is no justification for the mutilation caused by cutting off a dog’s tail. Animals of any age feel pain. There is no scientific proof needed. There is no valid evidence that routine docking enhances their well-being. There is evidence that docking can have negative medical consequences both short and long term.
Tails enhance the canine ability to communicate and balance. Tails facilitate protection of vulnerable areas, particularly in the female of the species. Tails in essence are one of the defining features of a dog.
The practice of tail docking started hundreds of years ago when community expectations were quite different and people were not as well informed about the welfare of animals as they are today. In the modern world animals are considered sentient beings, with inherent value. If we are to continue to care effectively for the animals we have domesticated then we need to strive for empathy and understanding regarding their well-being, which involves to an extent, keeping their interests in mind.
The subject of mutilation also relates to other species that are no different from dogs in the way they experience pain and suffering. There are necessary mutilations that should be performed using anaesthesia and pain relief if humans are not to be considered barbarians.