SCOTLAND has moved to end an outright ban on tail docking for dogs, allowing for vets to shorten the tails of specific breeds.

Vets will be allowed to dock the tails of spaniels and hunt point retrievers by up to one-third when they are puppies, after MSPs voted on the legislation.

Experts and animal rights campaigners have expressed outrage at the move, saying it represents a “retrograde step for animal welfare”. 

For the past 10 years, there has been a ban on tail docking in Scotland after the Government introduced it as part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. This also made it illegal to take a dog out of Scotland to have its tail removed.

While other parts of the UK have a ban on docking, there are exemptions for working dogs including spaniels, hunt point retrievers and terriers.

Previous moves to relax legislation in Scotland have been supported by gamekeepers for working dogs.

Holyrood’s Environment Committee passed the changes after hearing from Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who said evidence shows these types of gun dogs are at increased risk of injury without having their tails docked.

She said: “The regulations also ensure as far as is reasonably possible that only dogs likely to be used for lawful shooting purposes can have their tails shortened and that veterinarians are the only persons who may carry out the procedure."

The vet must also be satisfied there is sufficient evidence to show the animal will be used as a working dog in later life.

The move came after 92 per cent of those who took part in a Government consultation supported docking for these breeds.

Scottish Government Veterinary Adviser Andrew Voas told the committee he estimated 80 puppies would have their tails docked a year to avoid having to carry out one amputation on an older dog due to injury, which he said would cause more pain than the earlier procedure.

The amendment will now be taken to a full chamber vote in the Scottish Parliament.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) expressed disappointment at the move, saying it “marks the start of a retrograde step for animal welfare in Scotland”. 

Melissa Donald, BVA Scottish Branch President, said: “We are saddened that the committee voted in favour of reversing Scotland’s previously progressive stance on tail docking. Research commissioned by the Scottish Government suggests that up to 320 spaniel puppies would need to be docked to prevent one tail amputation. This prevalence of tail injury simply does not justify unnecessarily submitting puppies to this painful procedure.

Animal charity OneKind campaigner Sarah Moyes said the decision was “a huge step back in time, and goes against the opinion of veterinary organisations, animal welfare groups and the public”.

She added: “We understand that tail injuries to adult dogs is a serious welfare concern, but cutting off puppies’ tails cannot be justified.”

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity said it went against the will of the Scottish people citing a 2016 opinion poll which showed 71 per cent supported a full ban.  

Dogs Trust’s deputy veterinary director, Runa Hanaghan, said: “Dogs Trust is deeply saddened that the Scottish Government is planning on re-introducing this outdated and unnecessary practice.”