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Policy Statements


In early 2014 Dogs New Zealand (Dogs NZ) (formerly the New Zealand Kennel Club) conducted a member survey to identify views on a range of dog welfare issues. The survey questionnaire presented Dogs NZ's current policy or position statements on a range of welfare matters and asked members to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with each statement. Both the responses and the accompanying comments were analysed and presented to Executive Council. Some results prompted immediate adjustments to Dogs NZ policy statements and others have created momentum for a more detailed review of current practices.

Some policy statements have been further revised as part of the consultation involved in the review of the Animal Welfare Act, the ensuing proposed Animal Welfare Regulations Click here and on-going dialogue with the members.

In lodging its submissions on 19 May 2016 on the proposed Animal Welfare Regulations the NZKC addressed in depth PINCH AND PRONG COLLARS, TAIL DOCKING AND DEW CLAW REMOVAL. These are set out below. In addition to the in depth submissions NZKC also made comment on all other canine related proposed regulations. For a copy of the full submission Click Here

At this point the following policy statements apply:


(Submission lodged on 19 May 2016 regarding the proposed Animal Welfare Regulation/Care and Conduct 10.4)

The NZKC does not support the proposal to prohibit the use of pinch and prong collars.

NZKC STATEMENT (component of NZKC policy on use of Behavioural Modification Aids)

NZKC recognises that the use of electronic, pinch or prong collars can inflict a degree of pain and be dangerous to dog welfare when used by people not skilled in the use of these devices. However, NZKC also recognises the value of these devices as a behavioural modification aid of last resort when used by suitably skilled and experienced dog trainers. NZKC considers that pinch and prong collars should not be available for purchase or use by the general public.


NZKC is the largest provider of domestic dog training services in New Zealand. 46 of NZKC's member clubs, spread throughout the country, provide dog training services for the public. This training includes delivery of the internationally recognised Purina Pro Plan Canine Good Citizen programme and is targeted at improving the level of responsible dog ownership and dog behaviour in New Zealand. The techniques taught are positive methods focusing on reward for good behaviour.

There are also training programmes delivered by highly skilled trainers (both NZKC and other providers) for difficult dogs, not suited for domestic dog training classes, where the use of pinch and prong collars is the only effective behavioural modification option. Such programmes may include those provided by law enforcement and defence forces.

One of the NZKC's main concerns is that removal of these specific behavioural modification tools as an option for skilled dog trainers will severely limit the extent to which difficult dogs can be trained and will lead to an increase in the need for more dogs to be euthanized as a consequence.


We consider that it would be appropriate to develop a register of dog trainers permitted to use pinch and prong collars as a means to limit and manage the use of these behavioural management devices. Permission to use pinch and prong collars does not exempt those personnel from any penalty associated with their misuse.


(Submission lodged on 19 May 2016 regarding the proposed Animal Welfare Regulation/Surgical and Painful Procedures 12.62)

The NZKC will not oppose the proposed regulation as written.


NZKC does not require the tail of any dog shown or entered in competitions to be shortened but recognises that breeders who choose to have their dogs' tails shortened may do so provided the process is performed by an accredited bander under the NZKC quality assurance scheme (recognised under the Dogs Welfare Code 2010). The recognised procedure involves the placement of a ligature on the neonatal puppy's tail within 72 hours of birth by a suitably trained person.

Any breach of this policy or the associated procedures may result in disciplinary action being taken under NZKC Discipline and Settlement of Disputes Regulation 2 (iii).


There is a wide range of opinion within the NZKC membership on tail docking which has created some tensions for NZKC as it looks to represent the interests of its members. Approximately 30% of our members own docked breeds and strongly support the procedure; the remainder hold views ranging from strongly opposed to conditional support.

As per the policy statement above, NZKC requires that if tail docking is to be performed, the procedure must be performed by an accredited bander under the NZKC quality assurance scheme, as recognised in the Dogs Welfare Code (2010). NZKC currently delegates to the NZ Council of Docked Breeds (NZCDB) responsibility for the accreditation process involved whilst NZKC remains responsible for the auditing of this process and the procedures associated with the practice of tail banding.

If tail docking were to be retained for other than therapeutic reasons, NZKC would remain supportive of the Accredited Banding Scheme. Our support for the quality of the scheme reflects the fact that some 10,500 tail bandings have been conducted over the past 5 years, without mishap.

As previously requested, if there is to be regulatory change around tail docking, we would expect this to be accompanied by a rationale that can be well understood by those dog owners likely to be affected. The expectation remains that this rationale will include science based justification, particularly in relation to pain and function. NZKC is disappointed that such justification has not been forthcoming to date.

In not opposing the proposed regulation on tail docking, NZKC has considered the wide range of opinion within its membership, broader public opinion, international trends and the impact on New Zealand's reputation as a global leader in animal welfare matters. Change to NZKC breed standards to align with international standards has been underway for over 13 years, to the point where at the current time, none of NZKC's 218 breed standards require the tail of any dog shown or entered in competitions to be shortened.


(Submission lodged on 19 May 2016 regarding the proposed Animal Welfare Regulation/Surgical and Painful Procedures 12.61.) Abridged version of submission set out below - Click here for full version.

The NZKC does not support the proposed regulation as written.


To prevent the potential for serious injury, NZKC allows the practice of removing front and rear dew claws from neo-natal puppies less than 4 days old or before the eyes open, whichever is first. NZKC considers that any short term discomfort is outweighed by the long term welfare advantages. The procedure should only be undertaken by suitably experienced members, vets or vet students under supervision.



Dewclaw is the name commonly given to non-weight bearing digits of animals. It is considered by many, to be a vestigial feature of the dog (having lost all or most of their original function through evolution).

Commonly, the front limb dewclaw is attached to the carpus (wrist) by a separate small metacarpal bone which forms a joint. These dewclaws have their own nerves, blood supply, muscles and tendons. As with all dogs claws, the dew claw grows in a C shape so if not maintained can either tear or grow right around to penetrate or abrade the skin. Not all front dew claws are articulated (jointed), there are no studies to show proportions of articulated verses non-articulated dew claws in dogs. There is also some breed variation. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest the articulated dew claws provide carpal stability and assist dogs to perform in physically strenuous activities such as agility (Veterinary Information Network VIN search). No published studies are available to demonstrate a dew claws function.

Hind limb dewclaws are different in that attachment is often by way of soft tissue only, lacking direct bony connection to the hock (ankle) joint. The bony structure of the digit is the same as in the forelimb (two small bones), as is its position on the foot. The small metatarsal bone is reduced to a very small size and so often, does not articulate. The claw is most often suspended from and held in place by skin and subcutaneous tissue of the hind foot. The nerves and blood vessels are the same as that of the front leg, but the muscles and tendons are vestigial.

Maturation of the brain occurs very rapidly in dogs, especially when there is sensory input from the eyes. Minor procedures such as dew claw removal should be performed before the eyes open and this rapid maturation begins, and pain pathways develop.

To date there is no known research on the impact of dewclaw removal on the welfare of dogs (Mills et al, 2016)

NZKC Position

NZKC does not support the removal of dew claws for cosmetic purposes, or in puppies greater than or equal to 4 days of age unless performed by a vet or vet student under supervision and with the use of pain relief at the time of the procedure.

NZKC does support the removal of dew claws when undertaken to prevent future compromise to animal or human welfare. As the claw develops and lengthens, injury and/or infection can result in certain situations (long coated breeds, malformed claws, incorrect maintenance). In larger breeds there is potential for owners, members of the public, and particularly children to be injured by dogs jumping up on them if dew claws are not removed. Because dewclaws do not contact the ground, unless they are trimmed regularly, they can become caught and cause painful injuries and/or infections.

The NZKC supports removal of dew claws when done before 4 days of age, or before the eyes are open whichever is first. It is a very quick procedure with the primary intention of removing the toenail and its bed. There is no need to remove bony tissue apart from the first section up to the end of the distal phalanx that has the nail bed. Bones at this stage are still largely cartilaginous and so when the transection is made across the first phalanx, or the distal interphalangeal joint, then any discomfort is minimal. Studies to date have been equivocal in evidence of the pain response in puppies of this age. There is no need to disarticulate the joint at this age. By removing only the distal (end) portion of the digit, the risk of haemorrhage and pain is minimal when proper technique is used.

The proposed changes seem unnecessary when no evidence has been provided to suggest that there are issues associated with the status quo. To the author's knowledge, no other country in the world bans the removal of dew claws in dogs.

Breed Standards

Dew claws are mentioned in 73 of the NZKC's 217 breed standards. In reference to dew claw removal the four options outlined range from must stay on, may stay on, must be removed and may be removed. There are some breeds, e.g. the Pyrenean Mountain Dog which requires the dew claws to remain and it is thought that this is a reflection of their original "fit for purpose" function of locomotion on mountainous terrain and perceived usefulness of the dew claw. The "fit for purpose" function is also believed to apply where the breed standard requires dew claws to be removed. One example is for companion dogs such as the Papillion.

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