Ear cropping and tail docking of dogs: Cruel or aesthetic?

Have you ever seen a dog with its ears cropped, or its tail docked? Wondering how this feature could possibly have come about?

It is not uncommon for dog breeders or owners to opt for this procedure. However, the practice is widely debated.

Ear cropping is when the floppy part of a dog’s ears is chopped off. Tail docking is when a dog’s tail is removed. Both procedures may be carried out for medical reasons, but in many cases, it is a mere cosmetic procedure.

“I think it is cruel and immoral. As a vet, I refuse to do it unless it is for medical purposes. I believe any good vet should be refusing this," says Peter Jaworski, who practices as a vet in Dubai.

According to him, there are health risks involved. “First of all, anaesthesia is never without side-effects. There is no need to expose a dog to these side-effects!

“And then there is a chance of complications after the procedure. There is the possibility of infections, or the procedure might be carried out incorrectly, and then it needs to be redone.”

Taking in consideration the health risks involved, opponents of this practice wonder why a person would decide to do the procedure. Although debated, they furthermore believe the dog is in pain during and after such procedure.

“It is very difficult for me to understand why this is done. I have had many discussions with dog owners who crop the ears of their dog and I have asked why they do so. But I have never heard a real answer. There is no good argument!” says Sarina Koerth, who co-runs Dubai Animal Welfare Society in Dubai.

Although ear cropping and tail docking is illegal in many countries in the world, it can legally be done in the UAE. Often, breeders choose to make the alteration when the pup is under the age of 12 months.

“When the procedure is done at this age, it does not affect the dog. But when done at a later stage, it causes health risks,” comments Hisham Ahmad Fahmi, veterinary expert at Dubai Municipality. “It is permitted for people to do it, but it does not happen a lot.”

Ear cropping and tail docking is more common among certain breed of dogs. Dobermans and Great Danes are often seen with the cropped ears whereas Rottweilers and Boxers are common breeds to grow up without a tail.

In most cases, it is the standard of a breed that breeders or dog owners would like to adhere to. Many people would agree that a Doberman with floppy ears looks silly, whereas the erect ears are a much appreciated feature. “Dobermans with natural ears just look like giant weener dogs to me!” says a dog owner debating the topic online.

Another explanation heard is a functional one. The Doberman is a companion protector. But when attacked, floppy ears form a vulnerable part to which the attacker can hold on. Likewise the tail can be of nuisance in hunting breeds, because it could collect objects on the way and get unnecessary hurt.

“Does it hurt? You tell me whether circumcision hurts,” argues a proponent of the practice on an online forum, pointing out that the procedure is done when the dog is very young. “A dog will not remember that he once had a procedure done. You can compare it to piercing the ears of a young child. The child won’t remember this later in life,” argues another.

Although it is legal practice in the UAE, it is difficult to find a reliable vet who does not refuse the practice, say dog owners. “It is hard to find a good quality pup and a vet who is experienced with cropping and non-judgmental about why you want the dog cropped,” says a dog owner on an online forum.

Peter agrees. “There are many cases where the procedure is not done properly, and the situation is even worse. I have done a couple of ‘repair procedures’. The procedures were so badly done that the health of the dog was seriously at stake.”

“Ear cropping is definitely an art, and not just any vet can or will do it. There are however, vets all throughout the country that do an excellent job,” writes a dog owner on an online forum.

He adds: “In most cases if you purchase from a reputable breeder, ears are cropped and healed (but not necessarily standing) before the pup goes home. This also helps when people on the street say: ‘How could you have his ears cropped?’  You just reply: ‘The breeder did it, I didn’t have a choice’.”



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