NEWS AND COMMENT: Last night the BBC aired a program about the cropping of ears of aggressive-looking dogs to make them look more aggressive and aesthetically pleasing to a certain type of person. There is a network of breeders offering customers the option to have their chosen dog’s ears trimmed so they look more pointed, in line with the appearance of the dog.
You cannot say that these dogs look friendly, charming and cuddly. These dogs are created for a certain type of customer and the customer wants an animal which looks aggressive. Perhaps it is a status symbol. Perhaps they are people who need project their image through their dog because they feel insecure. They want their dog to have an aggressive profile. This might be getting worse as the world becomes more competitive and therefore inherently more aggressive.
However, counter to that is the fact that climate change is focusing the minds of people on nature and the need to respect nature. This should alter attitudes and it may lead, eventually, to a greater respect for companion animals. I am hopeful.
Humans are distanced from nature. Humans tends to be arrogant. They think the world revolves around them. Humans feel that they can play God with companion animals. It’s a very bad, arrogant attitude to take. It is disrespectful of companion animals. Modifying the anatomy of companion animal shows a disrespect for the animals and an attitude which is at odds with good quality companion animal caregiving.
That’s my philosophical take on it but the practical take on the issue is pretty horrendous. This is modifying the appearance of dogs for the convenience of the purchaser. It’s cosmetic surgery without, of course, the consent of the animal. On the BBC show they had Daniella Dos Santos a former president of the British Veterinary Association. She said that she was devastated by what the BBC has exposed.
“Cropping of ears is an illegal mutilation which is done for no other reason than cosmetic reasons and the whole conversation throughout has been about how these dogs look. It’s all for status. There are no health benefits to these dogs at all.”
Two men selling ear-cropped dogs
An undercover BBC journalist went to the Welsh home of a man providing American bully dogs with cropped ears. He said that he liked the look. He supported the cropping of ears but he admitted that it was an illegal operation in the UK. His name is Moheiz Adam. He thinks it’s a shame that ear cropping is illegal as it gives the dogs a “striking look”. He offered to sell the undercover journalist a puppy for £13,000. He has people who do the cropping for him. He provided advice to the journalist in case he is questioned about it by the authorities.
He said that if he was asked, “you basically [say] that’s how you bought it, from an Irishman. It came from Europe and that’s all you know”.
He gets all of his dogs done by an unknown person (veterinarian?). He says that if it is done when the puppy is young enough it looks ’10 out of 10′.
Another dog breeder in Cardiff, Wales, Joshua Harty, also told an undercover journalist that he could also arrange for ear cropping and supply a foreign pet passport and a microchip.
He said that his vet gets them from Turkey and the cost is normally around £500. He said that there is never any problem with the authorities. He has crossed borders with his dogs going to Ireland and Spain. Daniella Dos Santos said that he was facilitating a crime. She said: “It’s all completely illegal, the cropping of ears, the false passports, everything about this is a dodgy system. Yet again, looking at these animals as commodities and moneymaking machines rather than living sentient beings.”
To stress, there is no health benefit whatsoever in ear cropping. In fact, it is detrimental to health. It is painful and obviously unnecessary in terms of what is good and right for the dog. It may affect their hearing and behaviour.
It is illegal in England and Wales under section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It illegal to do it yourself or for a vet to do it. Sometimes ears are operated on in a procedure called a pinnectomy. However, this is done for medical reasons such as white cats who can get skin cancer. Tail docking is another procedure which changes the appearance of an animal for the convenience of the purchaser.
Affecting hearing and behavior
It is not clear whether this sort of ear cropping affects hearing but it is likely to at least to a certain extent because the ear flap is specifically designed, as you know, to capture sound and funnel it into the ear canal and eardrum. Secondly, dogs’ ears are used to communicate. They are part of a range of body language postures which a dog uses to communicate with. I’m referring to their “ear carriage”. The way the ear is held helps people and other dogs to understand if a dog is happy, relaxed or worried.
The BBC tells us about one example. A dog had her tail docked and her ears almost entirely removed. She was very wary of people and it took months to build up her confidence and to trust people.
The RSPCA has seen a 236% increase in reported ear cropping during the last five years. In all, they have seen 178 reports in total between 2015-2019. This is an ongoing problem with social media and influencers online including celebrities. They promote the appearance. It is believed that the cropped-ear appearance is being normalised through influencers online. It may be glamorised so that it becomes desirable across a wider range of people. Images of dogs with cropped ears are used on items of clothing and other merchandise.
The debarking of dogs is also illegal in the UK. It is also cruel. When I lived in an apartment my neighbour debarked her little dog. She obviously wanted to avoid upsetting her neighbours. She liked small dogs but her dog had a tendency to yap. The dog made a rasping, low-key barking sound. It was difficult to observe and a reminder of what she had done.
I have to at least briefly mention cat declawing. Cat declawing is another form of mutilation of a companion animal for the convenience of the owner. Once again, there is no medical benefit for the animal and often for declawing there are many complications. Sometimes the detriments are lifelong. The surgery is often botched as it is carried out in haste in order for the veterinarian to make more money. It seems that humankind has developed a habit of believing that they can modify the beauty of a creature created by nature over eons of evolution. The arrogance of humankind knows no bounds.
Underworld of illegality
Both declawing, ear cropping, tail docking and debarking are cruel procedures which need to be tackled head-on by the authorities. They aren’t. There appears to be an underworld of illegality, treating dogs as commodities, and this trade goes on without hindrance or genuine involvement by law enforcement or the authorities. It is taking place under the radar and the authorities seem disinterested.