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Mutilations and tail docking of dogs

9 June 2008 - Guidance on the legal status of wing and web tagging in the light of the Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 is available.

3 June 2008 - The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 have now come into force.


From 6 April 2007 in England, and 28 March in Wales, the mutilation of animals was banned under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, with certain exemptions set out in the 2007 and the 2008 (Amendment) Regulations. “Mutilation” covers any procedure that involves interference with the sensitive tissues or bone structure of an animal other than for therapeutic purposes (medical treatment).

Certain procedures are exempt from the ban because of long-term welfare or management benefits. There are some specific requirements on how many of the procedures are performed, and all must be carried out in a way that keeps pain to a minimum, under hygienic conditions, and in accordance with good practice.

The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008, which came into force on 3 June 2008, amend the 2007 Regulations and have the effect of:

  • Allowing certain artificial insemination techniques in sheep and goats. These are:
    • Ovum transplantation, including ovum collection, by a surgical method
    • Embryo collection or transfer by a surgical method
    • Laparoscopic insemination for the purpose of breed improvement programmes
  • Allowing the wing and web tagging of non-farmed birds for conservation purposes (including education and captive breeding programmes) and for research.
  • Allowing the wing and web tagging of farmed birds involved in breed improvement programmes and for identification for disease testing purposes.
  • Allowing the neck tagging and web notching of farmed ducks involved in breed improvement programmes. 

Certain drafting changes have also been made in order to ensure compliance with relevant EU Directives on the welfare of pigs and laying hens - these amendments are not intended to affect current farming practice.

A public consultation on the Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 ran from November 13th 2007 and closed on February 13th 2008. Impact assessments for both the wing–tagging and for the sheep and goat procedures and for can be found in the 2008 (Amendment) Regulations explanatory memorandum (on pages 4 and 14 respectively).

These exemptions largely consolidate and replicate existing legislation. There have been no very significant changes to the status quo.

A full version of both the original 2007 Regulations and the 2008 (Amendment) Regulations (including their Explanatory Memoranda) can be obtained from the Office of Public Sector Information

Wing and web tagging

Guidance on the legal status of wing and web tagging may be found here.

Tail DockingTail Docking of Dogs (85kb - pdf)

This information applies to England only.

The docking of dogs’ tails has been banned in England since 6 April 2007.

There are exemptions from the ban for certain types of working dog, or where docking is performed for medical treatment. 

There is also a ban on the showing of dogs docked after this date at events where members of the public have paid an entrance fee. This ban does not apply where a dog is shown only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability.

The exemption allows certain types of working dog to have their tails docked by a veterinary surgeon. The dog has to be no more than 5 days old and the veterinary surgeon must certify that he or she has seen evidence that the dog is likely to work in one of the specified areas.

Owners and keepers wishing to have a working dog’s tail docked must ensure that this is undertaken in accordance with the law.

To access the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and The Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails (England) Regulations 2007 visit the Office of Public Sector Information.

Wales and Scotland

The Animal Welfare Act 2006, which contains a general ban on the tail docking of dogs, and the limited exemption to it, applies to England and Wales only.  However, regulations detailing how working dogs are identified and certificated have been made separately in the two countries and differ in certain details. 

Further information on the Welsh regulations may be found on the Welsh Assembly Government’s website.

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006 in Scotland includes a total ban on all non-therapeutic tail docking of dogs.  Further information on animal welfare legislation may be found on the Scottish Government’s website.


When docking and micro-chipping a dog, vets must issue a certificate PDF document (91 kb) as detailed in the Regulations. This form of words must be used by vets when issuing a certificate for a docked dog and can be downloaded onto veterinary practice notepaper.


What kind of working dogs can be docked?

In England, Any spaniel, terrier, hunt point retrieve breed or their crosses can be docked (as long as the necessary evidence indicating that they are likely to work is produced).

What kind of evidence do I need to prove that my dog will work in order to have it docked?

The puppy must be presented with the dam, and a statement provided by the owner (or the owner’s representative) that the dog is intended to work in one of the specified areas. Additional evidence related to the particular type of work the dog will perform is also required. This is detailed in the regulations.

Can I continue to show my dog if it is already docked?

The showing ban, at events to which the public is charged for admission, only applies to dogs docked on or after 6 April 2007.

Can my dog participate in field trials if it has been docked?


Must a vet dock a working dog’s tail if asked to do so?

No – the decision is discretionary. The legislation does not require a vet to dock an eligible dog’s tail.

How do I know if my dog’s tail has been legally docked?

Dogs which have been legally docked must have a certificate issued by a vet. The certificate contains certain information required by law and must be signed by a vet.


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Page last modified: August 15, 2008
Page published: April 4, 2007

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs