Ear cropping of dogs, time to make it illegal to own one.

If Dobermans and the other breeds were meant to have cropped ears they would be born with them.

The ear cropping of dogs in the UK has been banned since 2006 when the Animal Welfare Act made it illegal but it is still an increasingly common sight to see these dogs being openly paraded in the streets and on social media. Australia has also banned the procedure, but there are still many countries in Europe and also the USA where it is still prevalent and actively encouraged. And this is where the problem lies.

The ban, like many animal welfare laws in the UK was not given enough thought and was never fit for purpose because it did not make it illegal to own an ear cropped dog making it easy to import them ready cropped or to take the dog to another country to have it done and thus circumvent the law allowing the suffering to take place elsewhere.

New petitions in the U.K. and U.S.A to ban the import of ear cropped dogs.

The RSPCA has recently announced a 236% increase in the last five years of the number of reports of dogs with cropped ears and are backing a new petition instigated by a dog trainer and welfare campaigner calling for a ban on importing dogs who have had their ears cropped. Their figure of 178 reports is obviously woefully understated and just the tip of the iceberg. Only last week I followed two men walking down the high street each with a doberman, one a three month pup, with splinted ears. Unless you are familiar with the the ban you are probably unaware there is a problem with it.

A similar petition has also been begun in the USA where the procedure can be legally performed by a licensed Veterinarian and where the American Kennel Association encourages it for dog shows. U.S. veterinarians still perform the procedure even though their governing body the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes it.

Dogs operated on abroad to circumvent the ban.

There are companies that legally import dogs with cropped ears into the UK and there is nothing to stop owners taking their dogs to countries in Europe that still allow it or even the USA and bring them back. There is little point in reporting them as the owners can legitimately claim they were done abroad.

Cropping is purely cosmetic and has no health benefits. There is no medical evidence that it prevents ear infections as often claimed by its proponents or any other health benefits. It is an inhumane and unnecessary procedure that serves no purpose other than changing the appearance of a dog. It is done more for the vanity of the owner than the well-being of the dog and because of a perverse belief that it makes the dogs look the way they “should look” and more attractive and fiercer.

Sadly a petition to ban the importation of dogs with cropped ears last year failed to get even half the required 100,000 signatures required for the Government to debate it. Whether this is an indication of the lack of interest or support of dog lovers is difficult to deduce, but there is another Government petition due to end in August 2021 to stop “the rising numbers of ear cropped dogs in the UK” which is also floundering somewhat.


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Is Ear Cropping & Tail Docking Illegal or Not in the UK?

With so many people now parading their cropped and docked dogs around the streets, it is difficult to believe that ear cropping is banned in the U.K. It has been illegal for well over the lifespan of any dog born in the U.K. since the Animal Welfare Act 2006 came into force so realistically every dog should have an intact tail and natural ears.

The situation is not helped by the celebrity culture. Over the years there has been a long line of “celebs” parading their cropped and docked dogs on social media all professing either ignorance or indifference to the fact that it fuels the demand, their only interest being the “coolness” of it. The latest is Diversity star Jordan Banjo who in December 2020 posted pictures of his new dog Sergio with cropped ears which was thankfully, to his apparent surprise, met by a barrage of condemnation. In his defence he is quoted as saying:

“I can’t pretend to have known all of the information on cropped ears, I don’t even want to pretend to be misinformed, to be blunt I didn’t even think about it in the first instance. I didn’t get his ears cut, I didn’t even import him. It upsets me to think that Sergio or any dog goes through this purely to look ‘cooler’” Jordan Banjo

Such obviously bogus outpourings of ignorance and upset over the cruelty involved highlights the mentality of people who insist on treating animals as cool and cute objects.

Jordan Banjo with Sergio
Jordan Banjo with Sergio. Celebrities have no problem about encouraging ear cropping and sadly many people think it is a natural look.

The ban on ear cropping impossible to enforce.

The reason for any confusion is that once again when formulating animal welfare laws in the UK, the powers to be did not give sufficient thought to the practicalities and what dog owners might do to circumvent the law. It was a simple case of importing ready made cropped and docked dogs from countries where the procedures are still legal such as from Europe and the USA. There is nothing preventing anyone owning such a dog as long as any suffering has been caused abroad which has given the public the impression it is acceptable.

The common sight of mutilated imported dogs on the streets has made it easier for UK entrepreneurs to continue cropping and docking illegally and assimilate them into the population without comment.

The confusion is not helped when the England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland governments all have a different interpretation and approach over the legality of docking. The RSPCA has had to turn to the veterinary profession for help in curbing illegal activity and in turn veterinarians have had to ask their governing body what they are meant to be doing about it.

The RSPCA are backing a petition to ban the import of ear cropped dogs instigated by a dog trainer and welfare campaigner (2020) which is long overdue and needs your support.

U.K. celebrity dog breeder prosecuted

The recent prosecution of a so called “celebrity UK dog breeder” puts the whole situation into focus. The breeder was found in possession of dozens of puppies with cropped ears and tools of the trade for cropping ears i.e. syringes, razor blades and forceps like a burglar going equipped. He was given a suspended prison sentence, banned for life from keeping and dealing dogs, (appeal possible after 15 years), made to pay £11,000 ($14,000) court costs and told to take part in community service.

Various cuts just like going to the hairdresser.

There are at least 20 breeds of dog that are traditionally docked and/or cropped including Dobermans, Mastiffs, Schnauzers, American Bullys and Pitbulls, Boston terriers and Boxers mainly to comply with show standards but increasingly owners think they look better or “hard” and some even think it is a natural look. Sadly there are a variety of styles of ear cropping available to suit the circumstances just like going to the hairdresser. Unfortunately many kennel clubs around the world still live in the dark ages and endorse the practice to maintain breed standards.

Most countries that have imposed bans went down the same route as the U.K. by allowing dogs to be imported and some have even allowed them to continue entering dog shows. Ironically, Germany, the birth place of many of the traditionally mutilated breeds, has also imposed a ban. There was recent controversy in Malta, when a cropped Doberman won the national dog show even though they have a ban, again because it was imported. The FCI, the international body behind most international dog shows, allows cropped dogs and publishes lists of countries without bans, so obviously supports these practices.

Confusingly, the UK doesn’t allow docked or cropped dogs to shows where people pay admission fees, but allow them at shows where no charge is made. The U.K. Kennel Club in 2016 changed their policy from not allowing cropped dogs to allowing “spectator” cropped dogs to be present to basically show them off. They oppose the showing and docking bans, but insist they want consistency in legislation.

The procedures are totally unnecessary and have no health or welfare benefits

As with all controversial issues opposing sides line up with a variety of reasons for either keeping mutilation legal or not, some of them rather nonsensical or surreal opinions. Pro mutilators maintain it is good for the dogs’s health and painless and that they can hear better, suffer less ear infections and if a guard dog an attacker has less to grab hold of. Those using them for fighting like them to be ear less and tailless so that the dogs cannot show submissive signs to their opponent. Those in between in the argument state the choice is that of the owner to decide “based on what is best for your dog“, but the bottom line is that such procedures are totally unnecessary involving painful aftercare and have no realistic welfare benefits.

Of course there is and has always been a simple solution to the problem. If we were really sincere in stopping the practices we could make it unlawful to be in possession of a cropped or docked dog and to ban imports, but of course that would be too easy.

Tailless Boxer dog, tail docking

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