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Animal. 2007 Sep;1(8):1167-78. doi: 10.1017/S1751731107000420.

Tail docking in horses: a review of the issues.

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1Animal Welfare Counci-Ministry of Social Affair, Food Chain Security and Environment-DG4 (CITES and Animal Welfare), 40 Place Victor Horta, 1060 Bruxelles, Belgium.


Routinely performed painful procedures are of increasing interest and, in 2001 (Royal Order, May 17), Belgium prohibited docking in several vertebrates including horses. In 2004, opponents to this decision submitted a Bill (Doc51 0969/001) to Parliament, intending to obtain derogation for Belgian draught horses, which were traditionally docked. The Animal Welfare Council of Belgium, an official body advising the Minister of Public Health, was asked to evaluate this complex question, including biological, ethical and socio-economic aspects, on the basis of the available peer-reviewed studies. In this context, this study reviews legal aspects (overview of the European legislation), zootechnic aspects (uses of the Belgian draught horse) and biological aspects (pain potentially related to docking; horses' welfare linked to insect harassment and hygiene, communication and reproduction) of tail docking in draught horses. We conclude that (1) there is no benefit for horses in tail docking, including Belgian draught horses, (2) potential advantages of docking are essentially in favour of humans and these advantages could be scrupulously re-evaluated, taking into account practices of other countries. Therefore, there is no need to dock any horse other than for veterinary reasons.


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