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27. Miscellaneous

Updated 10 May 2013

Removal of dew claws

Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

27.1  The removal of dew claws amounts to the practice of veterinary surgery and therefore can, as a general rule, only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon. Schedule 3 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, however, allows anyone of or over the age of 18 to amputate the dew claws of a dog, before its eyes are open.

27.2  The Veterinary Surgeons Act applies to the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

 

Animal Welfare Legislation

27.3  In the United Kingdom, animal welfare legislation prohibits the mutilation of animals, but subject to certain exceptions laid down in regulations.

 

Animal Welfare Act 2006

27.4  In England, Schedules 1 and 9 to the Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1100) state that the removal of dew claws is a permitted procedure with the condition that ‘an anaesthetic must be administered except where the dog is a puppy whose eyes have not yet opened’.

27.5  In Wales, Schedules 1 and 9 to the Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (Wales) Regulations 2007 (WSI 2007/1029) state that the removal of dew claws is a permitted procedure with the condition that ‘an anaesthetic must be administered except where the dog is a puppy whose eyes have not yet opened’

 

Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006

27.6  In Scotland, Schedule 9 of the Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 (SSI 2007/256) states that the amputation of dew claws is an exempted procedure and may be carried out for the purpose of general animal management. The Protection of Animals (Anaesthetic) Act 1954 continues to apply in Scotland and provides that anaesthetic must be administered except for ‘the amputation of the dew claws of a dog before its eyes are open’.

 

Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

27.7  In Northern Ireland, Schedule 8 of the Welfare of Animals (Permitted Procedures by Lay Persons) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 (NISR 2012/153) states that the removal of the dew claws of dogs is a permitted procedure which may be carried out as a management procedure by lay persons but may only be carried out before the pups eyes are open.  Otherwise, the removal of the dew claws of dogs is a prohibited procedure and may only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.

 

What are a dog’s dew claws?

27.8  Colloquially, dew claw refers to the first digit on the hind limb and the first digit on the fore limb.

27.9  Anatomically, the dew claw is defined as the first digit of the hind limb. Dew claws (hind limb) are very variable in their occurrence, ranging from complete absence to a fully formed digit with skeletal components; most consist of a nail, skin and connective tissue with no skeletal articulation. Such a vestigial structure is certainly very vulnerable to damage through catching on vegetation; therefore, there is a good argument for removal of dew claws before five days of age.

27.10  Anatomically, the first digit of the fore limb is not a dew claw. Generally, the first digit of the fore limb is fully formed and has an important function. Not surprisingly dogs are often seen to use these ' thumbs ' exactly as you would expect -- to help grasp food and other objects because they can be adducted, flexed or extended like any other digit, due to the bony articulation and the muscle attachments.

27.11  Legislation has not defined dew claws and ultimately, it is for the courts to decide the meaning of dew claws applying to any specific legislation.

 

Conclusion

27.12  The removal of the first digit of the hind limb (true dew claws) is justified in most circumstances.

27.13  The removal of first digit of the fore limb is justified only if, in the veterinary surgeon’s professional opinion, the particular anatomy/appearance of the digits invites possible damage.

 

Canine surgical artificial insemination

27.14  Surgical Artificial Insemination (AI) carries many disadvantages for the bitch and is unlikely to be carried out in the best interests of any particular dog, but a veterinary surgeon may carry out surgical AI:

  1.  in the rare circumstances where Transcervical Insemination (TCI) has been  demonstrated not to be a practical option
  2. AND

  3.  the invasive nature of surgical AI is justified* and accompanied by an appropriate regime of post-operative pain relief.

* Veterinary surgeons are advised that on the information available to the Advisory Committee, surgical AI is justified only for exceptional reasons, for example, the incorporation of new genetic traits into a line or breed when the sire is not easily available or unable to mate naturally for reasons other than inherited disease.

27.15  When carrying out surgical AI, a veterinary surgeon should record in the bitch’s clinical records why TCI is not a practical option and the justification for the invasive procedure.

 

Prosthetic testicles

27.16  The RCVS has decided the insertion of prosthetic testicles is not a procedure that benefits the animal and is not in the animal’s interests. There is also concern that the procedure allows an owner to claim an animal with a prosthetic testicle had the natural conformation.

27.17  The RCVS advice is that the procedure is unethical.

 

Microchipping 

27.18  RCVS Council last approved guidelines on microchipping in February 2000 (RCVS News, March 2000). Following a review of these guidelines by the Veterinary Surgery Working Party, the following guidelines have now been agreed:

  1. implantation by methods other than the subcutaneous route, ear tag or bolus will generally amount to veterinary surgery in view of the potential for pain or stress or for spreading disease, and in some cases the likely handling difficulties;

  2. the repair or closure of the entry site, where necessary, will generally amount to veterinary surgery;
  3. sedation and analgesia are medical treatment and so amount to veterinary surgery. Depending upon the nature of the treatment which is necessary it may be lawful for it to be carried out by a suitably qualified veterinary nurse under veterinary direction or by the owner;
  4. the procedure may amount to veterinary surgery if there is special risk to the health or welfare of the animal.

27.19  The new advice strengthens the existing advice and makes clear that the RCVS considers the microchipping of horses within the nuchal ligament to be an act of veterinary surgery.

 

Blood transfusions

27.20  Section 2(8) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 exempts procedures conducted as part of any recognised veterinary, agricultural or animal husbandry practice. Taking blood from healthy donors with the permission of the owner and with the intention of administering the blood or its products to a recipient is recognised veterinary practice where there is an immediate or anticipated clinical indication for the transfusion. Such a clinical procedure would be acceptable on the scale of an individual veterinary practice or between other practices in the locality. However, the collection of blood for the preparation of blood products on a larger commercial scale for general therapeutic use in animals may require licences under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; this larger commercial scale activity would need to be licensed under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.

 

New technology tests

27.21  Veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses involved with the use of tests using genomic or other similar new technology (including proteomic and metabolite technology) within the context of ‘recognised veterinary practice’, are subject to the same restrictions, safeguards and guidance as those involved with tests using biochemical or other technology, such as:

  1. compliance with the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, to ensure that , subject to the specified exemptions in the Act and subordinate legislation, only veterinary surgeons practise veterinary surgery;
  2. consideration of the RCVS Code of Conduct the interface between the Veterinary Surgeons Act and the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986;
  3. consideration of the published information on the clinical benefits of the test, particularly if the test is new;
  4. consideration of the test as predictive or diagnostic;
  5. consideration of the specificity and sensitivity of the test;
  6. consideration of positive and negative predictive values;
  7. consideration of the environmental or other factors when the test relates to a complex condition;
  8. publicity is legal, decent, honest and truthful and therefore with no misleading claims;
  9. publicity is of a professional nature;
  10. consideration of responsibilities to patients and clients, such as informed consent from the client and, if appropriate, informed consent for the use of any excess collected with a sample and not used in the test;
  11. appropriate professional guidance and advice when test results are communicated to clients; and,
  12. consideration of responsibilities to the general public, including the use of professional status to provide only factual information to the general public about veterinary products and services and the need for cooperation with colleagues and other health care professionals when appropriate.

27.22  The usual safeguards should be applied, as appropriate, even if the genomic or other test provides no diagnosis of disease. For example, such information may be used for breeding purposes or by insurance companies and may have a significant effect on the welfare of the animal or animals tested. Client confidentiality will apply to the results of such tests.

 

Renal transplantation (cats)

NOTE: This guidance has been suspended pending a review. Please contact the Professional Conduct Department for advice (020 7202 0789 or profcon@rcvs.org.uk).

Introduction

27.23  The purpose of this supporting guidance is to safeguard the position of source and recipient animals involved in transplant procedures. It is the involvement of source animals which makes transplant procedures uniquely different in ethical terms from any other procedures.

27.24  This guidance is intended to apply in the first instance only to kidney transplants in cats, as this is the only procedure likely to be seriously contemplated in the United Kingdom in the immediate future, and will be reviewed regularly.

27.25  The RCVS takes the view that the transplantation of kidneys in cats should be regarded as ethically acceptable in the United Kingdom, but only if carried out in accordance with the guidelines set out below. In devising these guidelines it has deliberately set high standards which must be attained before transplants can be undertaken in the United Kingdom.

27.26  The RCVS accepts that only a few veterinary surgeons may choose to carry out this procedure.

27.27  The Home Office has accepted that kidney transplants in cats can be 'recognised veterinary practice' and, as such, exempt from the need for a Home Office licence under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This is supported by Counsel's opinion sought jointly by the RCVS, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), (the "Legal Opinion").

27.28  The RSPCA has indicated that the removal of a major organ from a living source animal might constitute an offence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and this possibility is supported by the Legal Opinion. However, the RSPCA has indicated that the degree to which this RCVS advice is followed will "influence any decision the RSPCA might take in considering the likelihood of a prosecution relating to organ transplantation between animals."

 

Part A: Ethical sourcing

27.29  All source animals must be treated with compassion and respect.

27.30  Organs for transplantation should not be commercially produced for the purpose; source animals should not be bred or bought for the purpose of transplantation.

27.31  The responsibility to provide a suitable source animal should normally be for the transplantation centre.

 

Part B: Balancing the interests of the source and recipient animals

27.32  Transplantation centres must give equal consideration to the interests of the source and recipient animals in deciding whether it is appropriate to proceed.

27.33  Source animals should be assessed for adequate renal function. In every case there must be the necessary compatibility between the source animal and the potential recipient animal. The level of distress caused to the source animal should be kept to a minimum. Source animals should be used on only one occasion.

27.34  In the event that the source animal is to be adopted or is already owned, then the owner or future owner needs to be fully informed of the procedure and any possible long term implications to the source animal. The owner of the recipient animal must be informed of the potential outcomes for the recipient animal. Owners must give informed consent to all procedures, which should be confirmed in writing.

27.35  Source animals should only be euthanased when there is no reasonable alternative. 

 

Part C: Transplant centres

27.36  Centres intending to carry out transplantation procedures must meet the following requirements:

27.37  To safeguard both the source and recipient animals, there must be a suitably qualified team of veterinary surgeons to remove and implant the organ and to provide the necessary post-operative support, both to the source and recipient animals. The team should include veterinary surgeons with Diplomate or Board Certified Level qualifications in Medicine, Soft Tissue Surgery and Anaesthesia and qualifications or experience in microvascular surgery and critical care. Ideally, at least one member of the team should have first hand experience of transplant surgery at another centre over a period of time.

27.38  To safeguard the ongoing care of the recipient and source animals, the centre must ensure satisfactory arrangements for long-term care, as determined by the group specified in paragraph 27.37. In particular, before carrying out transplantation procedures the centre must:

  1. provide the recipient's primary practice with aftercare guidelines; and
  2. ensure that the veterinary surgeon(s) from the primary practice are willing and able to undertake this aftercare.

27.39  Approved centres will be expected to be up to date with current developments that significantly improve outcomes, keep appropriate records of the transplantations carried out and undertake regular audit of clinical outcomes.

27.40  The centre must have an Ethics Committee to ensure that all procedures are subject to rigorous and critical review. This Committee should include lay representation and must represent the health and welfare interests of both source and recipient animals and the views of staff involved.

 

Inspection

27.41  Centres seeking formal confirmation that they meet the requirements above may ask RCVS to appoint an Inspector for the purpose. The costs of the inspection are to be borne by the Centre seeking approval.

 

Tail docking (dogs)

Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

27.42  The removal of the whole or part of a dog’s tail amounts to the practice of veterinary surgery and therefore can, as a general rule, only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.

27.43  The Veterinary Surgeons Act applies to the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

 

Animal Welfare Legislation

27.44  In the United Kingdom, animal welfare legislation prohibits the mutilation of animals, but subject in some cases to certain exceptions laid down in regulations. Veterinary surgeons should be aware of the provisions which apply in different parts of the United Kingdom, as they might be asked to undertake docking that could be illegal in the client's normal country of residence.

 

Animal Welfare Act 2006

27.45  In England and Wales, Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to remove the whole of part of a dog's tail other than for the purpose of medical treatment, subject to the exemption for docking the tails of certain working dogs. In particular, the legislation provides: 

  1. that any veterinary surgeon who docks a tail must certify that s/he has seen specified evidence that the dog is likely to work in specified areas and that the dog is of a specified type;
  2. the dog must be no older than five days when docked and will also need to be microchipped before it is three months old;

27.46  In England, the Docking of Working Dogs' Tails (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1120) specify the certification requirements for veterinary surgeons docking working dogs’ tails (the form of words for the docking certificate can be found on The National Archives website). In particular, the Regulations specify:

  1. the types of dog that may be docked namely hunt point retrieve breeds of any type of combination of types, spaniels of any type of combination of types or terriers of any type of combination of types;
  2. the types of evidence which the veterinary surgeon will need to see;
  3. identification and microchipping requirements.

27.47  In Wales, the Docking of Working Dogs' Tails (Wales) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1028 (W.95)) are similar to those which apply in England but not identical (information about the certification required is available on the Welsh Assembly website). In particular, the regulations specify:

  1. the types of dog which may be docked are more narrowly defined in Schedule 2 Part 1 of the Regulations;
  2. the certificate which must be completed by both veterinary surgeon and client requires  the client to specify the breed of the dog and its dam, and the veterinary surgeon must be satisfied that the dog and its dam are of the stated;
  3. the certificate must specify the purpose for which the dog is likely to be used and confirm that evidence relevant to the particular case has been produced.

 

Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006

27.48  In Scotland, Section 20 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 prohibits the mutilation of animals and there are no exemptions in any regulations for the non-therapeutic docking of dog’s tails. It is also an offence to take a dog from Scotland for the purpose of having its tail docked.

 

Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

27.49  In Northern Ireland, Section 6 of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 provides that a person does not commit an offence if the whole or any part of a dog’s tail is removed by a veterinary surgeon for the purpose of medical treatment; or in order to prevent or remove an immediate danger to the life of the dog in circumstances where it is not reasonably practicable to have the tail, or as the case may be, any part of the tail, removed by a veterinary surgeon.

27.50  There are also exemptions for docking the tails of certain working dogs. In particular, the legislation provides: 

  1. that any veterinary surgeon who docks a tail must certify that s/he has seen specified evidence that the dog is likely to be used for a specified type of work and that the dog is of a specified type;
  2. the dog must be no older than 5 days when docked and will also need to be microchipped before it is 8 weeks old at the same veterinary practice that carried out the docking procedure.  

27.51  The Welfare of Animals (Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 (NISR 2012/387) set out the certification process for the exemption for future working dogs, which must be completed by the breeder and the veterinary surgeon at the time the dog’s tail is docked and subsequently microchipped. The docking certificate can be found on the NI Direct website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/tail-docking-dogs.

27.52  There will also be evidence which must be presented to the veterinary surgeon to allow him/her to decide if the pup meets the conditions to qualify as a potential future working dog. The pup and its dam must be presented to the veterinary surgeon within five days of the birth of the pup. If the dam has died since whelping, the veterinary surgeon must see veterinary certification to this effect. In particular, the Regulations specify:

  1. the types of dog that may be docked namely hunt point retrieve breeds of any type or combination of types, spaniels of any type or combination of spaniel, or terriers of any type or combination of terrier; 
  2. the types of evidence that the veterinary surgeon will need to see;
  3. identification and microchipping requirements.

(Please note that the NI Direct link above also provides detailed information on the types of work and the evidential requirements) 

 

Further information

27.53  Further guidance on the practical and legal approach to the docked puppy has been provided on the British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation website for both members and non-members.

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