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Important Information Regarding the Practice of Tail Docking in Horses

The Animals Legislation Amendment (Animal Care) Act 2007 amended the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to introduce a new offence for prohibited procedures under which existing offences for specified procedures, such as tail docking of horses and dogs, firing of horses, ear cropping or debarking of dogs and some new procedures have been combined into one area of the Act to ensure consistency of legislation.  A prohibited procedure includes "the procedure of docking the tail of a dog or a horse, unless the procedure is done by a veterinary practitioner for the purpose of having a therapeutic effect on the dog or horse".  Tail docking of horses was previously an offence in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act unless done by a veterinary practitioner for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes.

Additionally, a new offence was added to make it an offence for the owner or person in charge of an animal on which a prohibited procedure has been carried out to show or exhibit the animal or to allow another person to show or exhibit the animal unless the prohibited procedure was carried out:
        (i) before the commencement of the amended legislation (12 December 2007 for horse tail docking), or
        (ii)  in a jurisdiction other than Victoria, provided the animal was not, prior to the procedure occurring, a resident in Victoria and the procedure was carried out in accordance with the legislation of that jurisdiction.

There is no retrospective element to the provision, ie. any horse which was tail docked prior to 12 Dec 07 can continue to be shown.  Additionally any animal on whom a specified procedure is conducted after 12 Dec 07 by a vet for therapeutic reasons will be able to be shown.  However if it is likely that the procedure was done recently owners/exhibitors will need to demonstrate that it was done legally (ie by a vet).  Given that the even prior to this amendment tail docking and firing of horses could only be done by a vet, horse owners should be able to get something from their vet who carried out the procedure to identify when it was done.

The prohibited procedure definition also includes some new procedures - teeth grinding/trimming of sheep using motorised instrument, declawing a cat and removing venom sacks of a reptile, unless these procedures are done by a vet for therapeutic purposes.