Some dog breeders say that it is their constitutional right to remove their dogs' body parts. GLYNNE ANDERSON says otherwise
Puppy dogs' tails are back in the news - to be or not to be? that is the question which remains ... er, in full swing.
Last year we were told by the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) that after July 1, it would be unethical for the vets to remove puppies' tails for cosmetic reasons. But now we are advised that the cut-off date has been forwarded to June 1, 2008, when tail docking will officially become illegal.
Many breeders of traditionally docked-tailed dogs have welcomed the new ruling and are more than happy, if not relieved to leave tails well alone and as Mother Nature intended.
But there is another faction of dog breeders who are up in arms and clearly militant in their stand regarding this new regulation. These are the breeders who are threatening to go underground and amputate their puppies' tails themselves if necessary - they claim that it is their constitutional right to remove their dogs' body parts if they so wish. It seems the reasoning behind their objection is driven by their fear of not being able to sell their specialised breed with tails.
They are adamant that cutting off the lower section of a four-day-old puppy's spine with a scalpel or pair of scissors, and without an anaesthetic, doesn't hurt at all. And no, it's nothing like circumcision which is about removing skin.
Furthermore, the amputation of puppies' tails is illegal if conducted by a layperson who could be prosecuted by the SPCA. This encompasses any such procedure whether surgical or with a band tied tightly to restrict blood flow to the tail which, after an extended period, eventually dies and drops off .
These pro-dock breeders often feel they are being unfairly persecuted by vets, animal activists, anti-cruelty leagues, pet shrinks and the majority of the population who are vehemently against docking.
Somehow it hasn't occurred to them that they are in the minority and on the opposite side are the medics, those in the know, those who protect the rights of animals, those who are happy to receive a complete puppy without a bit cut off the end, as well as those who wish to have this inhumane practice stopped once and for all.
There seems to be a great deal of confusion and myth involved in tail docking and it's high time the public is enlightened and in a position to make an informed opinion for themselves when purchasing a puppy.
Let's hope in the future that the tail doesn't wag the dog but rather the dog wags the tail, which after all, is the poor animal's god-given right.
Q: As a pet shrink do you think docking puppies' tails has any adverse psychological effect and, if so, what is your reasoning?
A: Yes, most definitely. In my opinion docking does have an adverse and lasting psychological effect on a four-day-old pup.
Remember the tail is bone and flesh and nerve endings and cutting through that with a pair of scissors while the puppy is fully awake must be sheer agony - once you have heard the screams from these little mites, you will live with the sound forever.
But the worst part is little ones have no coping skills at that age, making their fear and pain insurmountable.
Then mum dog panics too when presented with bleeding, traumatised babies and in turn she probably loses her milk, which compounds the suffering.
There are too many other psychological side effects that affect balance and communication to mention here, but think about this ... how many traditionally tail-docked dogs do you know that are absolutely normal?
Q: It seems strange to me that some breeders are happy to have tails on their dogs, like Rottweiler breeders, while others like the Doberman breeders are dead against it. Any ideas why?
A: The answer is in the tail, the look and the bank account.
Rotties, bless them all, have beautiful, strong, straight tails of which I'm sure you've seen several, as most of their breeders are enlightened and living in the new millennium.
But the dobbys on the other hand carry their tails in an upward curve over their backs, which some may find a little strange because we are unaccustomed to the look.
However, I feel certain, once given a little exposure, they will soon grow on us too and the breeders will sell their pups, tails and all.
Q: I recently ordered an Australian sheep dog from a registered Kennel Union of Southern Africa (Kusa) breeder who simply refused to sell me a puppy with a tail.
I told her I am anti-docking and she virtually implied I was mentally challenged for thinking in that way. Her reason was that an ASD left with a tail stands the risk of it growing backwards into its anus. I really want one of her puppies and don't know what to do. Please advise me.
A: I actually thought you were having me on until I spoke to you. The mind boggles.
This person is a first-class bullduster or her brains are where she said puppies' tails grow. You are dealing with a die-hard breeder who will do as she says.
If your conscience will allow, go ahead and support her industry and the terrible trauma she causes. If not. wait until July next year and hold thumbs Madame Cruella De Ville will not go underground and do the chopping off herself.
Q: Is the banded method of docking tails cruel?
A: Is Chinese torture cruel? It's more or less the same thing. A tight band is placed around the pup's tail that eats into its flesh.
Picture the swelling, the pain and the inability to find relief - and if they dare tell you it doesn't affect the dog psychologically ... go ahead and pull the other one, it's got bells on it.
- Glynne Anderson is a pet behaviour consultant and professional dog handler who has appeared on radio and TV to talk about animals and their problems. She can be contacted at email@example.com or by phoning 031 765 1958.