Veterinarians in B.C. are now banned from tail docking and alterations of dogs, horses and cattle, following a landslide vote by the province’s regulator.
About 91 per cent of voting registrants of the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia supported the banning of cosmetic tail docking, during a vote taken between Oct. 13 and Nov. 2.
“Veterinarians in B.C. have advanced animal welfare in the province through this vote,” college president Dr. Brendan Matthews said in a news release Tuesday. “B.C. now joins the four Atlantic provinces, and Quebec, on banning these cosmetic procedures.”
Tail docking is the surgical removal of an animals tail for cosmetic purposes, and involves severing tendons, bones, and cartilage with a scalpel or cutters to remove the tail.
No scientific evidence supports a welfare or medical benefit for tail docking or alteration, unless carried out in cases of injury or for medical reasons such as removing cancerous tissues.
Evidence does show a detrimental effect on behaviour and animal communication, as well as the risk for infection and phantom pain.
The move follows another vote by the college last year to ban cosmetic ear cropping on dogs.
Some breed associations continue to resist bans because of historical practices, to which Matthews says: “Veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to the animals they treat, and tail docking goes against that responsibility. We ask other provinces to follow suit and for breed associations to recognize the changing times.”
Manitoba and Saskatchewan have banned cosmetic procedures like tail docking and ear cropping for years, whereas Alberta and Ontario practice no regulations, said Dr. Shawn Llewellyn, member of the college's animal welfare committee.
"We're playing a bit of catch-up," he said.
Although a majority favoured the vote, some veterinarians worry that banning professionals from these cosmetic procedures will force "breeders to take it upon themselves," Llewellyn said, although in other provinces this hasn't been the case.
BC SPCA’s Dr. Emilia Gordon applauded the decision in a news release.
“We feel this is a big step forward in the humane treatment of animals in our province, and evidence that veterinarians in B.C. are very interested in animal welfare first and foremost."
Any vets who continue these practices will face disciplinary action from the college, including revoking of their license and fines, and possible charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.