As of one minute past midnight last Thursday, it remained legal in Wales to dock the tail of working English and Welsh springer or cocker spaniels, but not other spaniel breeds or cross-breeds such as sprockers. Likewise, it remained legal to dock the tail of a working Jack Russell, Cairn, Lakeland or Norfolk terrier, but not other working breeds such as Patterdales or cross-breeds. In an unanticipated development, Welsh docking legislation changed at the eleventh hour to a situation that many in the shooting world will regard as effectively unworkable.

The last-minute change came about through the adoption of two late amendments to the legislation proposed by Labour’s Lorraine Barrett and Janice Gregory, and Plaid Cymru’s Jocelyn Davies. Welsh Assembly members agreed to both amendments in a closely run free vote. Rather than allowing exemptions for “spaniels of any breed or combination of breeds” and “terriers of any breed or combination of breeds”, the legislation now lists just three breeds of working spaniels and four breeds of terrier that are exempt from the docking ban. Bizarrely, the Welsh legislation exempts Cairn terriers, despite the fact that it is a breed traditionally undocked anyway and, like the Norfolk terrier, is not a typical choice for working owners. The Welsh legislation allows for the exemption of specified HPR breeds.

Adrian Simpson, director of the Countryside Alliance in Wales, asked: “What’s the point of banning the docking of some dogs in Wales when they can be transported to England to have the same operation? At least it remains open to the Assembly to revisit the issue at a later date, to produce more coherent regulations that consider the welfare of working dogs in a logical and coherent way.”

Separately, legislation governing tail docking in England comes into effect tomorrow, 6 April. To dock an exempt dog, from an HPR, spaniel or terrier breed (or cross-breed), you will have to provide a signed and dated statement identifying yourself to the vet as the owner or a representative, with evidence that the puppy is likely to be used for a specified type of work. Evidence includes a shotgun or firearms certificate issued to the owner of the dog or a letter of confirmation from a gamekeeper, a land occupier (or his agent), a person with shooting rights, a shoot organiser, a representative of the National Working Terrier Federation or a lawful pest controller.