Scotland’s outright ban on tail docking for dogs it to be ended, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced.
Ministers are to create exemptions which will allow vets to shorten the tails of spaniels and hunt point retrievers when they are puppies, with legislation expected to be brought before Holyrood early next year.
The move is part of a series of measures aimed at improving animal welfare which will mean that electronic training collars will only be permitted to be used under the guidance of an approved trainer or vet.
In addition, ministers will also bring forward a Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circumstances in May 2017, which could then be put in place the following year.
The Scottish Government brought in the ban on tail docking in 2007 as part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which also makes 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.
Ms Cunningham said: “We have seen evidence that some working dogs are suffering tail injuries, so I have decided to allow vets to shorten the tails of spaniel and hunt point retriever puppies where they believe it will prevent future injuries amongst working dogs.”
The move came after 92 per cent of those who took part in a government consultation supported docking for these breeds.
Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of those who responded said the current total ban has had a negative impact on commercial dog breeding in Scotland, with the same proportion saying they knew of people who were buying working dogs with docked tails from elsewhere.
Meanwhile, 28 per cent said that the current law had had a negative financial impact on them, through factors such as a loss of sales of dogs, or with tail injuries resulting in a loss of days when working dogs could be used and vets’ bills.
Although the ban was introduced almost a decade ago, the Scottish Government said at the time that if it compromised the overall welfare of working dogs, ministers would reconsider their position.
Ms Cunningham said: “Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we take the welfare of our pets, animals and livestock very seriously.
“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.”
Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said the exemptions on tail docking would be a “major improvement to animal welfare legislation in this country”.