Earlier this year, we brought the issue of cat declawing to your attention. Undertaken for medical and cosmetic reasons, though not always with necessity, cat declawing is considered incredibly cruel by some, and there are U.S. states looking to have the practice outlawed. Ear cropping and tail docking are similarly sore subjects with pet parents and experts, but what are these procedures, and should they be outlawed?
Tail docking and ear cropping refer to the act of cutting into a dog's ears in order to shorten them, and amputating the tail to create a shortened stump. While the practices were believed to have started as early as Ancient Roman times when longer tails were considered to spread rabies, both continued to be used by hunters, ranchers, and dog-fighters, who assumed that dogs with longer tails and ears could be more easily felled by opponents or particularly feisty prey. These days, tail docking and ear cropping are done as much for cosmetic reasons as they are for traditional motives, and because it's what many people have come to expect of the breed. Are you more likely to recognize a Doberman with flappy ears and a waggy tail, or one that stands straight and tall with little tail to speak of? Indeed, how many of you had come to believe that such pups were born this way, rather than being altered after birth?
Katelyn Mills, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, recently published a study in PLOS One to determine how normal pet parents felt about unnecessary medical procedures. The study found that from the 810 participants who were shown altered Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Miniature Schnauzer, and Brussels Griffons, the vast majority had no idea that the pups' shortened ears had been done on purpose. A similar question, which asked 392 test subjects to reveal why two Doberman Pinschers had such different features despite being from the same litter, revealed that a similar percentage assumed that the differences just "occurred" due to genetics.
Von Keyserlingk, the co-author of the study, said that many people simply choose to ignore the cruelty of docking and cropping when done for cosmetic reasons: "People disconnect themselves from things if they find it uncomfortable… They don't want to know about it." Often performed at three to five days of age, and seven to twelve weeks respectively, docking and cropping are considered painful procedures, and are actually banned across Europe and Australia. The American and Canadian veterinary medicine associations heavily oppose docking and cropping, but as yet, neither are completely outlawed.
What are your thoughts on ear cropping and tail docking? Share them with us in the comments section below.