Monday, February 18, 2013

Tail Docking...No ifs, and's, or butt's!

I have been writing about controversial procedures because I think everyone needs to be fully educated about what they are asking of their pet. Sometimes, procedures become so common, people forget why it was done in the first place.

So when we are talking about saving money and putting the best interest of the pet first, then we have to know details to make educated decisions.

So where did the idea of tail docking come from?  Believe it or not, historically docking the tail was thought to prevent rabies, make the back stronger, and prevent injury while hunting, baiting, or fighting. Pretty sad, huh? In fact in England in the 1700's a tax was levied on any working dog whose tail was not docked.

There are 17 breeds that are born with bobbed tails such as the Corgi. Other breeds such as Rottweilers and Cocker Spaniels have their tails docked. Docking is now part of breed standards in many dog shows and kennel clubs and dog's whose owner or pet parent refuses, find that their pet's are severely penalized during confirmation.

The argument in favor of tail docking says that it prevents damage to the tail. For long haired breeds the reasoning is it prevents feces from getting stuck in the long hair of the tail as well as brambles and foxtails. 

The problem with these two arguments is that there are many other breeds with long tails who do not suffer tail injury even though they are as active as hunting and ratting breeds. As for hygienic issues and concerns of long fur matted by brambles, a simple solution is to clip the fur off. Most dogs today are not hunting dogs, but pets. They lay around on the sofa and walk on the street, not in the woods.

How is the procedure done? There are two methods. One method is done mostly by the breeders at home. A band is put on the tail blocking any blood flow. Within a few days, the tail below the band will die and fall off. The second method is done by the vet at 3 days old. With the puppy full awake, the tail is cut off with surgical scissors or a surgical blade at the desired area. Usually, the vet will put in one stitch to prevent bleeding.

While those in favor of docking like to believe both procedures are painless, I dare anyone to put a rubber band tightly around your finger (or any other appendage) for a few minutes. I'll wait............

Okay, rubber band on? Now lets continue.

 I have been present for many tail dockings and I can tell you that the puppy screams to the top of his lungs when the scissors slice through his tail. More often than not, the breeder, who was standing there laughed about it. That did not make her very endearing to me.

 The cartilage is indeed softer as a pup, but to suggest it is not painless is an attempt to feel better about the procedure. As someone who has had cartilage piercings I can assure you, they hurt like a b*tch.

I think it is time to stop making tail docking routine. To me, responsible breeders should step forward and refuse to allow it to be done to their pups. And those who decide to purchase, instead of adopt, should insist on only buying pups who have not had their tales docked. Pressure needs to be put on the Kennel Clubs to stop punishing animals and their owners for refusing to engage in this procedure.

If, for an individual dog, the tail becomes an issue, then consider the procedure. While it will be necessary to do it under anesthesia and will cost more, at least it will be something that only needs to be done in special circumstances.

I met a lady once, who asked to have the tail of her very large dog amputated. I asked why. She said she lived in a small home with small children. They all adored the dog, but every time the dog got excited, the tail would knock over lamps, and sometimes even injure the kids as it smacked them in the face. She was willing to pay for, not only a pain injection, but requested pain meds to be sent  home to keep him as pain free as possible. She has given it lots of thought and was willing to do what ever was necessary to keep him comfortable. I understood her reasoning and was pleased with her compassion which I never seemed to see from breeders.

While I realize I come down on certain issues pretty heavily and find it difficult to be neutral, it is because of what I have seen. The pet parent does not see the puppy scream or the just declawed kitten wake up from surgery. The technician does. And while we see pain everyday, inflicting it unnecessarily is very difficult. Refusing to assist often means being fired. So it puts the technician in a very difficult position. So if I am opinionated on certain issues, please understand my perspective.

So, how is that finger feeling?


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