Puppy Dogs’ Tails

The Animal Welfare Bill comes before the Commons on Tuesday. MPs are due to have free votes on two amendments – one banning all docking of dogs’ tails, the other banning docking dogs’ tails, except for working dogs such as rescue dogs, police dogs and gun dogs. As seems to be the norm with questions of animal welfare, the respective lobbying groups have entered the fray with their own commissioned polls – a MORI poll for the RSPCA, and an ORB poll by the Countryside Alliance.

Both polls show overwhelming support for a ban on docking tails for cosmetic reasons – MORI asked if respondents supported or opposed the practice, 75% opposed it with only 8% supporting it. ORB specifically asked about whether it should be banned – 70% (including those who wanted a ban on all docking) thought docking for cosmetic reasons should be banned, 30% did not (the higher figure is presumably because most of those who neither opposed nor supported cosmetic docking opposed a ban).

The more controversial question is whether docking should be banned for working dogs. The ORB survey found that only 39% of people would support banning docking for working dogs. Supporters of the ban have questioned the finding because the ORB question said that docking of working dogs was “to prevent serious tail injuries to them”, when organisations like the RSPCA (who support the ban) question the contribution docking does make to preventing injury. The question should probably have said that “supporters claimed that” docking was to reduce injury, rather that stating it as a fact. That said, it is unlikely to have had a huge effect on people’s answers.

As I write I also notice another poll on the Bill – another proposed amendment would ban all but permitted animals from travelling circuses. No sign of exactly where the government would draw the line on which animals were permitted, but Zippos Circus are clearly worried about being allowed to keep horses – they’ve comissioned a MORI poll that found 43% of people think it is acceptable to have equestrian displays in circuses, while 39% think it is unacceptable.

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