Cropping a dog’s ears, or docking a dog’s tail, is an invasive surgical procedure, usually performed for cosmetic purposes. This means that, the dog’s life is not made better by altering his physical appearance. Similar to plastic surgery on humans.
So, if it’s not for our dog’s best interest, then why is it still legal?
In this article, we are going to look at the pros and cons of delegalizing cosmetic surgeries for dogs.
Why Do We Crop Or Dock?
Many breeds have “standards” set by organizations like the American Kennel Club, which state that the dog’s ears and tail must look a certain way in order to be considered a model for the breed. Dogs, who don’t meet these cosmetic standards, are not able to compete in shows or sporting events. These breeds must undergo cosmetic surgery to fit the breed standard before they can be considered dog show contestants.
Breeds like boxers and dobermans are required to have both their ears cropped and tails docked, while breeds like the Vizsla or German shorthaired pointer are only required to dock their tails.
Not only are these breeds required to have cosmetic surgery, but the surgeries must be performed to a standard as well. Meaning, if the dog’s tail is an inch too short, or the ears are too long, the dog will be disqualified.
Seems a bit silly, right?
Other than show standards, there are some practical reasons for cosmetic alterations on dogs.
Some breeds, like pit bully type dogs and mastiffs, are well known for their long, whip like tails. These extremities are notorious for clearing coffee tables, bruising shins, and smacking into any tough or sharp surface imaginable. Many owners of these breeds opt to dock their dog’s tail while they are still young puppies, in order to prevent injury or hassle in the future. Once the dog matures, tail docking becomes a fairly invasive procedure, and is quite painful for the dog. Reoccurring injuries may require a partial or full tail amputation. The owners, who dock for preventative measures, truly have their dog’s best interest in mind. Not cosmetic reasons.
The Dangers Of Cosmetic Surgery
We all know dogs can’t talk. This means they can’t consent to cosmetic surgery like humans can. These procedures not only alter a dog’s appearance, but they affect their entire life. Here are some of the dangerous effects cropping and docking can have on a dog’s life.
Nerve Damage – Both cropping ears and docking tails results in nerve damage. This will affect the way the dog senses touch to his ears and tail, and this can even affect the dog’s ability to control those parts of his body. The tail is a continuation of the spine. Severing the spine too close to the base of the tail can lead to incontinence – this may cause the owner to put the dog to sleep.
Risk of Infection – Infection is often seen in ear cropping. Ears are a made of very sensitive tissue that becomes irritated quickly. Many dogs have negative reactions to ear cropping, causing infection which rots the tissue. This tissue will either fall off on its own, or will have to be removed. That is why many dogs with cropped ears have a build up of scar tissue, or seemingly no ears at all.
Effect on Communication Skills – What many people don’t realize, is that dogs use their ears and their tails mainly for communication with other dogs. They position these parts in certain ways to convey their feelings towards other dogs or humans. Many pit bull type dogs find themselves in troubling situations, because they were not able to warn their owners or other dogs about their discomfort. By taking away a dog’s ears, tail, or both, you are disabling their ability to communicate non-verbally.
Unnecessary Pain – Many dog owners, who agree with these procedures, believe that there is little to no pain involved in the cropping or docking process. However, this is proven to be false. There are many studies done that show that infant puppies are still capable of feeling pain. They often scream out and whimper during the docking process, as no anesthetic is used. They are then in visible pain for roughly 15-20 minutes before they return to suckling their mother. Though 15-20 minutes may not seem like a long time to suffer, that is only the period of time where the dogs are expressing their discomfort. They still feel pain, and are sensitive in that area for a couple of weeks. As for ear cropping, which is performed later in puppyhood, the procedure is painful, and the healing process is worse. After the ears are cropped, they are wrapped and “pinned” up. These bandages cause discomfort, and can be cumbersome on the dog’s wounds.
At Home Procedures – Though this concept may seem strange to the average dog owner, there are many dogs who undergo these alterations at home! This means they usually do not have access to anesthetic, proper tools, pain killers, or antibiotics. The dogs, who have their tails docked or ears cropped by their owners, are often the ones we see with infections, nerve damage, and severe scar tissue. Many of these dogs will lose the rest of their ears, due to improper cropping.
Should We Make Alterations Illegal?
Ultimately, yes. We would like to see these procedures made illegal, and for “breed standards” to be thrown out the window. However, there are some downsides to making cropping and docking for cosmetic purposes illegal.
Breeders Are Usually Exempt – Unfortunately, most laws prohibiting cosmetic surgery on dogs only prevent the surgeries from happening in registered veterinarians’ offices. This gives breeders the ability to continue with their “questionable” practices, and causes more people to consider purchasing from breeders. People who want a dog to “breed standard” will still have their dog’s ears cropped and/or tail docked by their breeder.
More At Home Procedures – Preventing owners from being able to have the procedure done at the vet will prompt more of them to do at home procedures. In provinces, where cropping and docking has been made illegal, we are seeing more at home cosmetic alterations, resulting in a serious concern for dog’s health.
Where Do We Start?
By removing breed standards from organizations like the American Kennel Club, we will drastically reduce the stigma that dogs must look a certain way to be attractive. These rules and regulations only cause harm and possible mutilation to animals, who aren’t even able to consent to the procedures in the first place. If we tossed our breed standards, future dog owners won’t feel pressured to alter their dog’s physical appearance.
If we took a step further to delegalize cropping and docking by breeders, and pressed charges against people who perform these procedures at home, we may actually see the end of cosmetic surgery on dogs.
For advocates and government to truly abolish cosmetic alterations on dogs, they must take further action than just making it illegal for veterinarians to perform the procedure. All that has done is open more opportunity for unqualified people to perform the alterations themselves.