Spanish Congress approves European ban on docking dogs’ tails

Despite government opposition, initiative ratifies European convention introduced in 1987

Spanish lawmakers have approved a ban on docking dog’s tails, ratifying a 1987 European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which forbids surgical procedures modifying the appearance of pets for non-medical reasons. On Thursday, Congress voted to ratify Spain’s adherence to the convention, which  also bans cropping ears, cutting vocal chords, and removing claws and teeth.

Pablo Iglesias speaking in Congress.
Pablo Iglesias speaking in Congress.JAIME VILLANUEVA

The move was supported by the Unidos Podemos coalition, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC). The ruling Popular Party voted against it, while its allies in Congress, Ciudadanos, abstained, as did the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).

The conservative PP had meant to add an exception to the ban for hunting dogs, but Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, personally got behind an amendment proposed by its parliamentary partners Equo, a merger of Spain’s green parties, to eliminate this exception.

Pablo Iglesias read out Pablo Neruda’s ‘A Dog Has Died’

A dog owner himself, Iglesias highlighted his “personal reasons” for supporting the ban on docking dogs’ tails in every case.

“I am sure that those of you who have a dog will have arrived home and enjoyed what is one of the best moments of the day, when your dog greets you,” said Iglesias. In an effort to win over the PP, Iglesias referred to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s own retriever, Rico: “I am sure that he loves him as much as any of us loves our animals.”

Iglesias called for unanimous support for the initiative, saying: “The type of society we aspire to be is at stake. A society that respects dogs is, paradoxically, a more humane society.”

He then concluded his presentation with a brief quotation from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s A Dog Has Died: “I believe in a heaven I'll never enter. Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom where my dog awaits my arrival waving his fan-like tail in friendship.”

The PP failed to win over Congress about allowing hunting  dogs to be docked 

Speaking on behalf of the Socialist Party, Zaida Cantera outlined the impact on dogs of docking their tails, saying it produced “chronic pain,” and “lifelong movement problems.”

Guillermo Díaz, of Ciudadanos, described the process as “unnecessary torture” and that those who inflicted the procedure on dogs were “on many occasions a danger to society,” noting: “How many sociopaths have begun by torturing animals?”

The PP failed to win over Congress with its arguments about maintaining the practice in the case of hunting dogs as long as docking was carried out while the animal was still a puppy. Spokesman Martín Bernabé justified docking on the grounds that it helped dogs enter warrens, and also prevented them from becoming trapped in brambles.

A latecomer

The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals was approved in Strasbourg in 1987. Since then, it has been ratified by 23 countries, many of them in the 1990s and early 2000s. Sweden was the first in 1989. Belgium and Germany did so in 1991. Italy ratified it in 2011, and Ukraine in 2014.

Docking will still be allowed in Spain in certain cases when decided by a vet, for medical reasons and under anaesthesia where required.

In the absence of an overarching national legislation in Spain, seven regional authorities had already unilaterally banned docking: Andalusia, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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