I have a lab/pit bull/boxer mix who is adorable, but she was lacking some of the “traditional” pit bull looks that I’ve come to love. I took her to my vet and asked for them to cut my dog’s ears so that she would look more like the pit bulls that I saw on TV. While she was in for that procedure, I decided that since she was part boxer she shouldn’t have a tail. It just didn’t look right when she was swinging that thing around all the time. I added a tail removal procedure onto her appointment and she came back to me with cropped ears and a docked tail. Finally, the perfect dog that society would approve of!
Before you call animal control on me, let me assure you that none of the story above is true, except for the fact that I have an adorable lab/pit/boxer mix who I love very much.
If it sounds unbelievable and unrealistic for me to walk into my veterinarian’s office and demand a physical transformation of my dog based purely on society’s expectations, you’d be surprised. Unfortunately that’s the reality for many breeds of dogs. It’s called ear cropping and tail docking, and it’s been around for many years.
What is tail docking?
Tail docking involves amputating all or part of the dog’s tail with a cutting or crushing tool. The length and specifics of the docking depend on the breed specifics that are designated by the American Kennel Club. Tails are usually docked when a puppy is between two to five days old, before the puppy’s tail is fully developed. The procedure is performed while the puppy is awake, under the belief that since they are so young they won’t remember the pain. Currently 62 breeds of dogs are recognized by the AKC with docked tails.
What is ear cropping?
Ear cropping is the process of reshaping a dog’s ear to stand up in a more alert fashion. Veterinarians surgically remove the “floppy part” of the ear called the pinna. Typically, half of the ear is removed in order to achieve the desired look. With some larger breeds, the ears are then taped and staked in order to shape them properly as they heal. The AKC currently recognizes 20 breeds of dogs with cropped ears.
Yikes. All of that sounds extremely painful, right? It is. In fact, many veterinarians won’t even participate in this type of unnecessary and painful procedure. It’s an outdated practice that (thankfully) many countries are starting to make illegal. However, tail docking and ear cropping is still legal in the United States.
The Controversy With Cropping
Despite the controversy surrounding the issue and pushback from the animal community, the AKC still maintains that docking and cropping are acceptable practices that are integral to defining and preserving breed character. The fact that a number of vets flat out refuse to do these procedures should be enough of a red flag to scare dog owners away from putting their pup through this painful process, but there are also a number of health risks that come with ear cropping and tail docking.
- Tails that are docked can develop a neuroma, or nerve tumor, making it painful for the dog if their tail is touched.
- There is an unnecessary risk of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection during these procedures that are purely done for cosmetic reasons.
- Because of the cost of a visit to the vet, many amateur breeders and dog owners are attempting to perform these procedures themselves, sometimes with with disastrous results.
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There are certain medical issues such as birth defects and disease that make removing parts of the ears or tails necessary for survival and comfort, and vets will gladly perform any surgery that benefits the well being of the dog, but subjecting your dog to an unnecessary and painful procedure just for cosmetic reasons is appalling.
Isn’t it time we eliminate ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards?
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