Scotland misses the mark with new dog welfare legislation

Scotland led the way when it came to ending the practice of tail docking, when the nation was the first and only one in the UK to ban any breed outright from undergoing this painful, unnecessary, and wholly cosmetic procedure.

Yesterday, that decision was sadly revised. The Scottish Government announced new provisions would make docking legal for working dogs deemed to be at risk of injury, such as spaniels and other gun dog types.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, said, “Dogs Trust is deeply concerned about the announcement that the Scottish Government will allow certain breeds of dogs to be docked. Amputating a puppy’s tail is a painful procedure but it is also unnecessary. Research by the Royal Veterinary College suggests that 500 dogs would need to have their tails docked to prevent one tail injury.

“Tail docking takes place when puppies are just a few days old and so we also question how it can be ensured that only puppies that will go on to be working dogs will have their tails docked.”

Tails are also considered a vital element of canine expression - one that is robbed by the practice of docking.

The Scottish Government's new welfare legislation also made no provision for an outright ban of electronic collars - shock and spray -something that had been widely expected in yesterday's announcement.

Instead, electronic collars will face greater regulation.

Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham,“We have consulted extensively on a number of issues and we will now improve our legislation by regulating the use of electronic training collars. There is evidence that these devices can cause suffering so they will only be permitted for use as a last resort and under the guidance of an approved trainer or vet."

It was hoped that Scotland would follow Wales - the Welsh Assembly prohibited the use of shock collars in 2010 - but it wasn't be so. Electric shock collars are a form of aversive training, deemed in modern times to be a cruel and outdated line of thought. A 2014 study by the University of Lincoln demonstrated that shock collars are no better at improving or eliminating behaviours than positive methods, and can actually cause a great deal of stress and fear to a dog. Putting these devices in the hands of trainers instead of owners (hint: no good dog trainer uses shock collars) won't change this.

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