Tail Docking


Multiple pieces of legislation apply to dog owners in Northern Ireland. This guide will help you understand your responsibilities, but it is not to be considered legal advice. The information below applies to Northern Ireland only. The rules may be different in the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland.

Tail Docking

It is against the law to dock a pet dog’s tail. (This does not apply to dogs whose tails were docked before 1 January 2013).

There are very limited exemptions where tail docking is permitted.

These include

–              by a vet for the purposes of necessary medical treatment.

–              by anyone if amputation is necessary to save a dog’s life  

–              working dogs: Puppies under 5 days old which may be used as working dogs in the future (in specific industries including law enforcement, lawful pest control or lawful shooting of animals). The vet must receive evidence to determine if the puppy meets the conditions to qualify as a potential future working dog. Only certain breeds may be exempt as working dogs (i.e. spaniels, terriers and crosses of these breeds, and other dogs commonly known to be used for hunting, pointing, or retrieving).

If you buy a puppy born in Northern Ireland and they have a docked tail, the breeder must supply a certificate of exemption, signed by the breeder and vet who undertook the procedure.

What can happen if I break the law?

Any person convicted of illegal tail-docking of a dog could face a maximum of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.


Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, section 6

The Welfare of Animals (Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Sentencing Guidelines – Magistrates’ Court – Animal Offences | Judiciary NI