CLAW encounters tragic case of home tail docking

CLAW sees many cases of tail docking, an illegal practice in South Africa meant to achieve an aesthetically pleasing appearance to a few dog breeds.Sundays, for many, are a day of rest. This is not the case for the staff of Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW), a companion animal project of IFAW based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The line for vaccinations and treatment at the clinic is around the corner yet again.

Jennifer Gerner, the CLAW veterinary nurse was busy vaccinating a patient. Outside a father and his two sons were next in line. He held a subdued looking male Boerbul puppy in his arms. The puppy’s tail was injured and in need of critical treatment. On closer inspection it was not an injury, it was an attempted home tail docking of this poor animal.

Read: South Africa clinic treats, cares for two dogs who cope with hardships differently

This type of injury is not uncommon to CLAW. Tail docking is illegal in South Africa and was initially practiced to achieve an aesthetically pleasing appearance to a few dog breeds. Deemed a cruel practice, it is only legal to dock a dog’s tail in South Africa when medically necessary. Rubber bands are the most commonly used item to achieve the desired effect.

Sadly, home tail docking still occurs on a regular basis in many of South Africa’s informal settlements. With the extent of his injury, and in visible pain, the puppy needed urgent medical attention.

Taren Welthagen, director of CLAW, assessed the injury with great dismay. Taren then questioned the two teens gently but firmly. They admitted to tying a rubber band around the puppy’s tail. Taren asked him how they would feel if their father had refused them medical treatment with such an injury. She then relates this to Tuffie and the pain he is in.

Taren explains their act is punishable by law in South Africa and they could be prosecuted for animal cruelty. It is agreed that, to avoid a lengthy and costly trial, the two young adults will participate in voluntary community service. The father is fully behind this decision and promises to supervise his sons during their community service hours.

Tuffie’s infection was so advanced, his tail could not be saved. He was booked into the clinic and his tail was surgically removed. Tuffie spent a few days in the clinic and was treated to ensure he recovered from his infection. He was collected by the father of the two boys and a pending home inspection will be conducted to ensure that Tuffie is being cared for properly.


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