I WRITE in response to your correspondent Sara Rutherford (Keep on docking, Bucks and Marlow Free Press, February 10). Ms Rutherford suggests that ceasing to dock dogs' tails will cause suffering rather than alleviate it.

Yet, docking dogs' tails for cosmetic purposes is painful, unnecessary, unethical and must be outlawed.

That's not just the view of the RSPCA, it's also the view of The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA).

It involves cutting or crushing a puppy's skin, muscles, up to seven pairs of nerves, and bone and cartilage and is performed without anaesthetic when pups are just three to five days old.

They can feel pain and research indicates they do so at a greater intensity than adult dogs because the ability to suppress pain develops with age and experience.

The law only allows vets to perform this abhorrent amputation, but most vets now consider this unwarranted surgical procedure to be unethical. Those in favour of docking, like Ms Rutherford, often suggest the procedure is done to prevent tail damage in working dogs, yet docking has become standard in certain breeds regardless of whether the individual puppy becomes a pet or ever actually works. And the traditionally docked breeds appear randomly selected.

For example, German Shepherds, Foxhounds and Bearded Collies are not traditionally docked, while Jack Russells, Boxers and Rottweilers are. There are even anomalies within breed groups. The tails of Cocker and Springer spaniels are traditionally docked, and yet Cavalier King Charles Spaniels' tails are left entire.

The argument that tails should be docked to prevent future injury, so-called prophylactic docking, is spurious too. We would not consider amputating a baby's finger to prevent it from future injury, nor removing a cat's tail because it might later get trapped.

So why perform a painful operation which will deprive a dog of a form of expression and an aid to balance?

The Animal Welfare Bill provides the perfect vehicle through which Parliament can finally act on sound advice from the veterinary profession and animal welfare organisations and ban the brutal and outmoded practice of amputating a dog's tail for fashion.

Gradually breeders' notions of canine beauty will then evolve to recognise that a perfect dog is one with its tail as nature intended.

Readers who want to see an end to this unnecessary and painful practice should contact their MP. For information on how, please visit: www.rspca. org.uk/ animalwelfarebill.

Sophie Wilkinson, RSPCA regional press officer for the East