Kudos to Prince Edward Island! This week the Canadian Province introduced a new animal welfare act making it illegal to carry out cosmetic surgery on animals. In other words, the days of ear cropping and tail docking dogs are over. We need to see this adopted as a universal norm.
Ear Cropping and Tail Docking
Both procedures happen shortly after birth and are common in breeds such as Dobermans, German Shorthaired Pointers, Pit Bulls and Schnauzers.
In docking, part of the tail is removed when the dog is just a few days old and tail is “soft”.
“Docking’s usually performed by a veterinarian or breeder without anesthesia, the rationale being that although it certainly causes pain, the puppy isn’t fully alert yet and won’t remember it,” says Emily Patterson-Kane, PhD, an animal welfare scientist at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
In cropping, the floppy part of the dog’s ear is cut off. This is usually performed when the dog is between 6 and 12 weeks old.
The ears are then taped to a hard surface for several weeks while they heal so they stay upright. (source Pets Web MD)
Cropping and docking can have a long-term, negative impact on the dog.
Ear cropping can be painful, lead to infection, and negatively impact the dog’s behavior going forward (as the healing happens during a crucial time in the dog’s socialization).
Tail docking can cause infection and chronic pain if extra nerve cells grow on the stump of the tail. Furthermore, dogs use their tails to communicate emotion, so docking “may interfere with your dog’s ability to interact with other dogs,” says Andy Roark, a veterinarian at Cleveland Park Animal Hospital in Greenville, S.C.
Despite the negative repercussions and absence of benefit to the animals, ear cropping and tail docking occur in large part because of archaic breed standards.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) says the practice of cropping and docking is “integral to defining and preserving breed character” in certain breeds. So, although it’s not required that these “certain breeds” undergo these procedures in order to be competitive in AKC dog shows, isn’t it implied? How can a dog contend to win a show – for example – if its “integral” elements don’t align w/ the AKC’s expectation?
Emily Patterson-Kane of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – an organization that opposes docking and cropping says:
“The most common reason for cropping and docking is to give a dog a certain look. That means it poses unnecessary risks.”
This “certain look” is a reflection of what people see at dog shows, on TV, in dog calendars, etc. And, if a spectator at a dog show only sees cosmetically altered versions her favorite breed, she will (at best) think that these alternations are the norm – and at worst that they are natural characteristics of the breed.
Cropping and docking don’t serve the dogs; the procedures should be banned everywhere.
Historically cropping and docking were done in “some working breeds” to help manage and prevent the dogs from getting injured on the job and, in the case of dog fighting (now illegal), the ears and tails were seen as “weak points” that needed to be “trimmed” so the opposing dog could not bite and latch on during a fight.
Since dogs no longer work as they once did, and dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states – both excuses are inapplicable and further strengthen the case that cropping and docking should be universally banned. Countries like the UK and Australia have taken the lead – and we hope to see the US and Canada follow suit.
In order to see change we need to push the AKC to encourage people to show the animals as nature intended. Even better, we need to push the standards of animal welfare such that these practices are universally condemned or better yet illegal. Start a petition, write your local government , or have a conversation with a neighbor about the implications of these antiquated practices. The well being of the animals needs to come first – and by taking action you can help propagate change.
By Bailey Schroeder, ResQwalk Founder + CEO