British Columbia forbids cosmetic tail procedures

The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia has voted to ban cosmetic tail docking of dogs, horses and cattle

The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia has voted overwhelmingly to ban cosmetic tail docking of dogs, horses and cattle. The Vancouver-based licensing body declared cosmetic ear cropping of dogs to be unethical about a year ago.

Cosmetic tail docking and cosmetic tail alterations, such as nicking and blocking horses, came up during an update of the Canadian group’s bylaws in November, said President Brendan Matthews, DVM. More than 91 percent of voting members opted to make both practices unethical.

“I haven’t tail-docked a puppy in about 10 years,” Dr. Matthews said. “Cosmetic tail docking of puppies 2 days old or 4 days old is not allowed. It is in our bylaws now.”

He called cosmetic tail docking a “silly procedure.”

Once deemed ordinary veterinary procedures, cosmetic changes are now viewed as cruel by the British Columbia group.

Matthews couldn’t say exactly what would happen to licensed veterinarians who flaunt the ban, but he intimated that they would be “chastised” by colleagues and the public, and possibly subjected to a warning or fine, depending on the nature of the offense.

Furthermore, veterinarians who continue to perform cosmetic surgeries could face the wrath of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act sets up SPCA as a watchdog, enabling the animal welfare organization to investigate anyone it suspects is involved in animal cruelty, including veterinarians who perform cosmetic tail docking, tail altering or ear cropping. SPCA can report individuals it finds in violation and can even recommend charges.

The bans do not apply to medical procedures necessary for an animal’s benefit, Matthews noted. For example, amputating a tail because of injury or cancer or removing an ear damaged in a dog fight is permitted.

Evidence suggests that tail docking or altering can adversely affect an animal’s communication and ability to fend off insects, and it poses an infection risk and can produce phantom pain.

British Columbia joined Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Quebec in enacting similar bans on cosmetic veterinary procedures.

Originally published in the January 2017  issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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