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Ear Cropping and Tail Docking: Mutilating Dogs for "Beauty"

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Posted February 18, 2015 by Kim Johnson

Humans can choose whether or not to have cosmetic surgery, but dogs aren’t so lucky. People choose for them, and they’re often forced to undergo painful and unnecessary procedures such as ear-cropping and tail-docking. Some veterinarians still perform these painful surgeries at the owner’s request, just to make dogs look more menacing or to give certain breeds more “desirable” physical traits, such as stubby tails or pointy ears.

Sugar's ears were likely "cropped" at home by untrained individuals without anesthesia. Many people have their dog's ears cropped in efforts to make the dog look larger or more menacing.

Sugar’s ears were likely cropped at home by untrained individuals without anesthetics. Some people have their dogs’ ears cropped in an effort to make them look more menacing.

Dogs use their ears and tails to express themselves, to communicate with us, and, some say, even to communicate with other animals. For example, dogs put their tails between their legs when they’re scared and wag their tails to show happiness or other feelings. By cutting off part of dogs’ ears and tails, we’re not only changing their appearance but also limiting their ability to express their emotions.

Dogs use their ears and tails to express themselves.

Dogs use their ears and tails to express themselves.

Ear-cropping is typically performed when dogs are between 6 and 12 weeks old, and the sole purpose is to make floppy ears stand up straight. The procedure involves cutting off parts of the ears with a blade or scissors in order to change their shape. The ears are then often put into an upright position and held in place with bandages and tape until they stand up straight on their own. The trauma of this painful procedure can have a negative psychological impact on a maturing pup, and the process of taping and retaping the ears to force them to stand up can be agonizing to the dog.

Like many Miniature Pinschers, Drake's tail was cut off so he could fit in with a "breed standard."

As is common with many miniature pinschers, Drake’s tail was cut off so that he would match the “breed standard.”

Puppies’ tails are usually docked when they’re just a few days old, either surgically or by placing a constrictive band around the tail. The process involves severing skin, nerves, cartilage, and bone. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), tail-docking is painful and unjustified and can lead to complications, such as excessive bleeding, infection, and chronic pain if scar tissue forms in the tail stub.

Tail docking Rusty Jack Russell Terrier

Because dogs have not been shown to derive self-esteem or pride in appearance from having their tails docked (common reasons for performing cosmetic procedures on people), there is no obvious benefit to our patients in performing this procedure.

—The American Veterinary Medical Association

The idea that dogs are fashion accessories is promoted by the American Kennel Club’s dog shows, and breeders, who believe that “their” breed will be ruined if animals don’t maintain the image handed down by breed clubs decades ago. The AVMA, however, opposes ear-cropping and tail-docking when they’re done for cosmetic purposes and encourages the elimination of both from breed standards. These procedures are so inhumane that they’ve been banned in many European countries. For example, British kennel clubs outlawed ear-cropping a century ago, and in 1993, the U.K. put a stop to cosmetic tail-docking. Many vets in the U.S. also refuse to perform these procedures.

Some breeders think that Emma Grace's breed should have a stubby tail, but she is happy and beautiful without cosmetic surgery.

Some breeders think that Emma Grace’s breed should have a stubby tail, but she is happy and beautiful without cosmetic surgery.

Dogs don’t care if they look tough or their ears stand up, and they shouldn’t have to undergo any unnecessary, painful procedure on somebody’s whim. Dogs aren’t fashion accessories or status symbols, and their ears and tails should be left alone.

ear cropping dobermanIMG_7000.JPG | John M. | CC BY-SA 2.0

Ear-cropping is so inhumane that it has been banned in several countries.

What You Can Do

  • Support legislation that aims to outlaw these cruel practices.
  • Love dogs for who they are! Don’t try to alter their appearance to fit in with a trend or to meet an arbitrary “breed standard.”
  • Share this info with your friends and family. Spread the word that tail-docking and ear-cropping are painful and that cosmetic surgery on dogs is cruel.
  • Like tail-docking and ear-cropping, declawing cats is also painful and unnecessary. Learn how declawing hurts cats and never declaw an animal.

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