Tail-docking dogs

The removal of a dog's tail, or part of a dog's tail, is known as 'tail-docking' and is an offence.

Penalty for illegal tail-docking

It is also an offence to take a dog to another jurisdiction to have the tail docking procedure carried out. Any person convicted of illegal tail-docking of a dog could face a maximum of two years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Showing dogs with docked tails

It is an offence to show a dog, which had its tail docked at events where the exhibitor pays a fee or the public pays admission.

This does not apply to dogs:

  • with their tails docked before 1 January 2013
  • shown only to show their working ability

Exceptions to the ban on tail-docking

It is not an offence if the tail is removed:

  • by a veterinary surgeon for medical treatment
  • to save the dog’s life when removal by a veterinary surgeon is not possible

There is an exemption for dogs which may be used as working dogs in the future in connection with law enforcement, lawful pest control or lawful shooting of animals. In order for this exemption to be applied, the dog must be of one of the following breeds:

  • spaniel of any breed or combination of breeds
  • terrier of any breed or combination of breeds
  • any breed commonly used for hunting, or any combination of such breeds
  • any breed commonly used for pointing, or any combination of such breeds
  • any breed commonly used for retrieving, or any combination of such breeds
  • Tail Docking of Working Dogs Regulations 2012 (legislation.gov.uk website)

Certification process for tail-docking pups

At the time the pup's tail is being docked, the breeder and the veterinary surgeon must complete the certification process. The veterinary surgeon must receive evidence to decide if the pup meets the conditions to qualify as a potential future working dog.

The pup and its mother must be presented to the veterinary surgeon within five days of the pup's birth. The docked pup must be microchipped at the same veterinary practice before it is eight weeks old.

Evidence needed for tail-docking pups

In order to have the pup's tail docked by the veterinary surgeon, the veterinary surgeon must receive the following evidence within five days of the pup's birth:

  • a statement from the owner or a person representing the owner stating that the dog is one of the breed mentioned above and likely to be used as a future working dog for work in connection with law enforcement, lawful pest control or lawful shooting of animals
  • the dam (mother) of the dog, or a veterinary certificate confirming that the dam has died since giving birth

One of the following will also be required:

  • police identification
  • prison service identification
  • HMRC identification
  • evidence that the owner of the dog, or an agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog, will be using the dog for work in connection with lawful pest control
  • a current firearm certificate issued to the owner of the dog, or to the agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog for work in connection with the lawful shooting of animals

A letter from one of the following will also be needed, stating the breeder of the dog whose tail is to be docked is known to them and that dogs bred by that breeder have been used on their land, or their shoot, or for pest control:

  • a gamekeeper
  • a land-occupier (or the land-occupier’s agent)
  • a person with shooting rights
  • a shoot organiser
  • a club official
  • a person engaged in lawful pest control

Buying a tail-docked dog

Any person who buys a pup, which was born in Northern Ireland on or after 1 January 2013 and has a docked tail, must get from the seller the fully completed certificate of docking which has been signed by the breeder and the veterinary surgeon who docked the pup’s tail. This is to confirm the pup was legally docked as a potential future working dog.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.