The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which came into force on 13 November 1987, prohibits, inter alia, the docking of dogs’ tails for non-medical reasons.
Although France ratified this convention in 2004, it continued to allow tail docking, including for purely aesthetic reasons. However, in order to minimise pain a vet must carry out the procedure no later than five days after the puppy is born, since at this age the nervous tissues are not fully developed.
Tail docking is traditionally practised on dogs living in packs and which tend to bite their tails, or on dogs living in scrubland where tails can easily become damaged (tails have few blood vessels and hence do not heal properly).
Except for these few instances, tail docking is practised for aesthetic reasons. Often done illegally by breeders later than five days after birth and at times without an anaesthetic, it deprives dogs of a way of communicating with other dogs to show fear, joy, stress, excitement, etc. If done badly, it can lead to total paralysis or chronic back pain.
Is the Commission aware of the provisions of national legislation concerning the tail docking of puppies? Does it encourage Member States to ban this practice?
The EU has not signed or ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which has been concluded within the context of the Council of Europe. Therefore, the provisions of that Convention do not form part of Union law and the Commission does not have the competence to monitor compliance with the Convention by the Member States.
Legislation at EU level regarding animal welfare focuses on specific fields such as farming, transport and slaughter. Therefore, Union legislation does not cover the tail docking of puppies and its welfare implications, and these issues remain the sole responsibility of the Member State concerned. A process to revise the EU legislation on animal welfare is ongoing as part of the actions under the EU Farm to Fork Strategy. The Commission proposal is expected in 2023.
Within the EU Platform on Animal Welfare, there is a voluntary initiative on the health and welfare of pets in trade that has been operating since June 2018. This initiative has resulted in several documents, including guidelines for responsible dog breeding. According to these guidelines, surgical mutilations, including tail docking of puppies, should only be allowed if it is deemed necessary and certified in writing by a veterinarian for medical purposes. While the Commission does not bear responsibility for these guidelines, they have been endorsed by the EU Platform for Animal Welfare to encourage their promotion in Member States.