It’s a subtle detail on a sign most people don’t notice, but for Tracey Hearst, it is an important detail.
Walking in Bowen's Metro Vancouver-owned Crippen Park, Hearst noticed that the dogs on Metro Parks signs have docked tails. She believes the practice to be inhumane, so Hearst wrote to Metro Parks saying the signs were inappropriate.
“It seems that commonly used images on signs become so familiar as to become almost invisible,” she wrote. “Such is the case of the dog.”
“Illegal or not, [docking tails] is cruel and abusive behavior. My Jack Russell has a beautiful tail, however I had to insist that the breeder not cut it. Corgies no longer have docked tails,” she wrote.
Docking dog tales is illegal in Australia, the U.K. and in parts of Europe (though exceptions apply for working dogs) but is still common in North America.
However, the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia banned cosmetic tail docking in 2016, noting that the practice has “a detrimental effect on behaviour and animal communication.”
“I think it is past time that Metro Vancouver parks reconsider the message they are sending,” wrote Hearst. “You have given us wonderful spaces to enjoy with our pets. Now stop supporting cruel and outdated practices.”
A couple of weeks after receiving Hearst’s email, Metro Parks staff told her that its sign committee had decided to use a new icon, a dog with a longer tail, on all new signage.
Metro Parks said that the new signs will go up when the old ones are no longer readable or if more are required for a new area.
Hearst said she was pleased with the response from Metro Parks.
“The important thing to me is that the parks paid attention. That you can make difference.” she said.