Despite ear cropping and tail docking being illegal in the UK, you don’t have to look very far to see that the practice is still going on.
And with celebrities like Marcus Rashford and Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock posting Instagram pictures of their modified pups, it seems that this cruel and unnecessary practice is not only accepted but largely glorified.
Cropped ears are most common in ‘guarding’ breeds, such as mastiffs, Dobermanns and American bullies. It involves removing the floppy part of the ear when the dog is a puppy. This is in order for the dog to look more intimidating.
Reports to the RSPCA regarding the ear cropping practice increased from 14 in 2015 to 47 in 2019, and then to 101 in 2020 – a rise of 621%.
Tail docking is also considered to be mutilation under UK law. It involves the removal of a dog’s tail in part or whole for cosmetic reasons or to prevent possible injury. Some are as young as five days old. However, there are exemptions for some breeds of working dogs. Therefore, there are loopholes.
Some argue that it preserves the ‘look’ of a breed, and can protect them if they are attacked. Yet, animal charities simply call it “barbaric”. After all, how many Spaniels do you know that are actually working dogs? Yet, tails are still docked.
What’s so bad about tail docking and ear cropping?
The process of tail docking or ear cropping in itself is deeply concerning. The puppies are not generally given anaesthetics throughout the process because they’re deemed not yet alert enough to feel the pain.
PETA state that:
“The ears are cropped when the dog is just 8 to 12 weeks old. At this stage in their development, the trauma of the procedure can have a strong psychological impact on the maturing pup. And the process of taping and retaping a pup’s ears to force them to stand erect after they have been cropped can be agonizing for the dog.’’
When we caught up with Elisa Allen, PETA’s Director, here’s what else she had to say on the matter:
“When you consider that many animals become distressed when handled – even for routine procedures such as nail-trimming – it’s clear that subjecting them to mutilations of any kind when there’s no medical necessity for doing so cannot be justified.”
“Ear-cropping is a painful mutilation that involves cutting off the majority of a dog’s extremely sensitive ears and taping the remnants into an unnatural, “devilish” shape for aesthetic reasons. Tail-docking is a form of amputation involving the removal – either partial or complete – of a dog’s tail and is often done without pain relief. Dogs’ ears and tails are there for a purpose.”
The effects of ear cropping and tailing docking do not end with procedure either; removing these body parts alter the dog’s life completely – hindering their ability to communicate. Elisa stresses that “dogs use their ears and their tails to ‘talk’ to their human companions and other dogs. Hacking them off not only is traumatic but also robs them of vital forms of expression, communication, and balance.”
A study also found that dogs with docked tails are twice as likely to have an aggressive encounter with another dog than a long-tail dog would, primarily because they cannot give out the same signals of friendliness.
And a wagging tail is one of the clearest signs of happiness and bonding between a dog and its owner.
Speaking to the British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President, Daniella Dos Santos stated that:
“Ear cropping is a painful, cruel and unnecessary surgical procedure where the floppy part of a puppy’s ear is cut off, often without anaesthesia or pain relief. It has no medical or welfare benefits for the dogs. In recent years, vets and animal welfare charities in the UK have seen a dramatic increase in the number of dogs with cropped ears, marking a frightening trend towards normalising this illegal mutilation.”
“However, despite being illegal in the UK, unscrupulous breeders use loopholes to import dogs with cropped ears from countries outside the UK where the procedure is still legal, or sending dogs bred in the UK overseas for the procedure. These loopholes also act as a smokescreen for illegal cropping taking place within the UK.”
“As part of our #CutTheCrop campaign, we are calling on the Government to close all legal loopholes and end the trend in ear-cropped dogs for good. We would urge all members of the public to sign our petition.”
How can we stop ear cropping and tail docking?
A petition was organised, entitled “Stop the rising number of ear-cropped dogs in the UK“. It received over 105,000 signatures and was debated on 7 June 2021.
The government are currently waiting for further advice from the RSPCA, and called it an ‘abhorrent practice’. They also said they want to “explore options to tackle the import of mutilated dogs, consistent with World Trade Organisation rules”.
The ear cropping campaign still continues, led by the British Veterinary Association. They say we can:
- Share graphics and information on our social media to spread the word
- Call out any influencers and celebrities who share pictures of their mutilated dogs on social media
- Report any cases of mutilation to the local police, vets and animal charities
It is worth noting that some rescue dogs will have their ears cropped and tails docked, having been rescued from owners who conducted the practices. Therefore, it isn’t always the current owner who supports the practice – always try to get as much information as possible before reporting.
As PETA’s Elisa Allen so beautifully puts it, “dogs love humans regardless of the way we look – we must extend the same kindness to them.”