A rapidly-growing petition is currently underway in the UK to halt the alarming rise in illegal ear cropping of dogs. While this practice is already illegal in the UK, it remains wildly popular, and illegal “croppers” are seemingly not difficult to find. In fact, from 2015 to 2020, the rise in reports of ear croppings in the area increased by 621%. This is believed to be largely due to celebrities posting social media images of their pups who have had the procedure done.

The petition campaign, hashtagged #FlopNotCrop, has reached over 100,000 signatures and is now moving through government channels to be addressed.

What is Ear Cropping?

This is a purely cosmetic procedure that has been traditionally popular with breeds like dobermans. Ear cropping involves cutting off the floppy part of a dog’s ears, and then taping them to a hard surface for several weeks, similar to a splint, so they heal in a fixed, upright position. This procedure is most commonly performed on dogs between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks, using anesthetic.

Aside from the cosmetic reasons for ear cropping, some dog owners contest the practice can prevent ear infections. However, research clearly shows approximately 80% of all dogs will never experience an ear infection in their lifetime. The breeds that are most prone to ear infections are not breeds that are likely to have their ears cropped in the first place.

In England, ear cropping has been illegal since 1899. However, it is still legal to own dogs who have had their ears altered, whether through rescue or by purchasing imported dogs who have already had their ears cropped. This loophole has led to lax rules, allowing those performing the procedure illegally in the UK to fly under the radar.

What is Tail Docking?

This procedure, which has become decidedly controversial over the last decade, involves removing part or all of a dog’s tail, and is usually done with surgical scissors shortly after birth. Tail docking is commonly performed without anesthesia, and is considered to be excruciatingly  painful. Veterinarians willing to perform this procedure often rationalize that because the puppy is still very young and not entirely alert, the experience will not be remembered.

Tail docking can develop into nerve tumors, causing lifelong pain. This procedure also interferes with a dog’s ability to express him or herself, and to interact effectively with other dogs through body language.

While mostly cosmetic, some argue that particular breeds, such as boxers or certain types of working dogs are more prone to tail injuries due to overexcitement. However, research has shown that this is highly unlikely, and that tail injuries among dogs are statistically minor and quick-healing.

For both of these practices, the American Kennel Club argues that they are “integral to defining and preserving breed character” in particular breeds. On the other hand, the American Medical Association opposes both practices, calling them unnecessary medical risks. Thankfully, Veterinarian networks in the USA have reported a sharp decrease in requests for these procedures over the last decade.

In Canada, there is no Federal law banning cosmetic surgery in pets. However, some Provinces have taken it upon themselves to regulate these procedures. Newfoundland, PEI, and Nova Scotia have all made these procedures illegal. In New Brunswick, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, governing Veterinary Associations have banned Veterinarians in their network from performing cosmetic surgeries on animals. In Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Manitoba, ear cropping is banned by the Provincial government, and these Provinces are open to banning tail docking, too.

Ontario remains the only Province that does not regulate tail docking or ear cropping. Cosmetic procedures have been proven to have no medical benefit, however there is evidence showing they can cause behavioural problems and acute chronic pain. Why has the Provincial government not taken action on something that affects the welfare of animals in our communities?

About Brandon Forder

Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition and canine psychology. He has more than twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon has a lifelong passion for helping people become great pet parents. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, web, and radio.

25 Responses

  1. So many things we do to animals is cruel, including docking tails and ears for cosmetic or egoistic reasons, but also breeding dogs with health issues such as short snouted dogs like pugs and bulldogs, dogs with sagging or bulging eyes and skin, long backs prone to injuries, continuously growing coats that result in painful matting because the owner is neglectful, owners who insist on leaving hair covering their dogs eyes due to ‘breed standard’ (how would you like to have your eyes covered by your hair?), dogs that require high mental stimulation but often do not get it due to owner lifestyle. Humans who fail to train their dogs or understand their animals due to ignorance, such as forcing a non-endurance breed to run beside them while jogging. Pets are a manifestation of human selfishness. Yes, some owners are good, but so many are not.

    1. Hello, Alex. Thank you for your comments.

      It’s clear we share a deep concern for the wellbeing of our furry friends. The issues you’ve highlighted, including cosmetic modifications, breeding for harmful traits, and neglect of a dog’s physical and mental needs, indeed reflect a broader issue of how pets are sometimes treated more as status symbols than as sentient beings with their own needs and rights. It’s crucial we advocate for responsible pet ownership and breeding practices that prioritize health and happiness over aesthetics or convenience. Your point is a powerful reminder of the need for empathy and education in our relationships with animals.

  2. I’m guessing everyone who is against cropping and docking never had there young boys circumcised!!! I don’t have PTSD. Keep your fight for the Eastern world as to where they eat dogs and cats!!

  3. Some breeds require the upright ears as part of their jobs. For example, if a doberman is a working guard dog, then upright ears better serve their hearing. Also, some working dogs need shorter tails to prevent injuries.

  4. What’s the difference between parents having there childrens ears pierced for what seems to be purely cosmetic reasons and a pet owners having there animals ears cropped and tails docked ? (Food for thought)

    1. Hello, Louis.

      Thank you for your thought-provoking question. Indeed, both cases involve procedures that alter the body in some way, but there are some critical differences when it comes to comparing ear piercing in humans and ear cropping or tail docking in animals.

      The most significant difference lies in the degree of the procedures and the ability to consent. Ear piercing in humans, particularly in children, is a relatively minor procedure that causes temporary discomfort and requires little healing time. Most importantly, children can communicate their discomfort and can participate to an extent in the decision-making process. As they grow older, they also have the option to remove the earrings if they no longer want them.

      On the other hand, ear cropping and tail docking in pets are considerably more invasive procedures that can cause significant pain and come with risks of complications during and after the surgery, including infection and chronic pain. Unlike ear piercing in humans, these procedures permanently alter the structure of the pet’s body and cannot be reversed.

      Moreover, pets cannot communicate their pain or discomfort in the same way humans can, and they certainly can’t consent to the procedure. Many veterinary associations, including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, oppose these procedures unless they’re necessary for a medical reason.

      We also must take into account the historical reasons for these practices. While ear cropping and tail docking were originally performed on certain breeds for practical purposes related to hunting or fighting, in modern times, they are often done solely for aesthetic reasons or to meet breed standards. The welfare of the animal should always be paramount, and many argue that performing a painful and invasive procedure for cosmetic reasons does not align with this principle.

      In essence, while both practices are cosmetic alterations, the degree of invasiveness, the potential for pain and complications, and the ability of the subject to understand and consent are fundamentally different.

      I hope this helps shed some light on this complex issue. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.

  5. I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  6. I don’t know what the health risks are for all dogs with full tails or ears but, it seems cruel to cut off their ears and tail for cosmetic reasons. I suspect that this is traumatizing for a young animal.

    1. It is not traumatizing to them at all when done by a licensed veterinarian.
      Breeds who get cropped and docked get it done for a reason.

      1. Hello, Emma.

        Thank you for sharing your perspective. It’s clear that opinions on tail docking and ear cropping vary widely, often influenced by tradition, breed standards, and personal beliefs about animal care. While it’s true that these procedures, when performed by a licensed veterinarian, are done under more controlled and sterile conditions, which can minimize immediate risks and complications, the broader concerns about these practices extend beyond the moment of surgery.

        Many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations argue that tail docking and ear cropping can cause unnecessary pain and distress to animals, with the potential for long-term physical and psychological effects. The rationale for these procedures is often linked to breed standards or aesthetic preferences rather than medical necessity. It’s also worth noting that many countries and veterinary associations have moved towards restricting or outright banning these practices based on ethical considerations and a growing body of evidence suggesting that dogs can suffer adverse effects.

        The reasoning behind cropping and docking varies, including historical practices for preventing injury in working dogs or minimizing the risk of infections. However, as our understanding of animal welfare evolves, the necessity and justification for these procedures are increasingly called into question, especially for pets not engaged in activities that these practices were originally intended for.

        Thank you for contributing to this important conversation.

  7. dogs cannot advocate for themselves…I have worked at a vet clinic and assisted with tail docking…you hold the puppy with it’s bum in the air and then the vet snips of their tail, that is part of their spine! this is all done without anesthesia and hurts like hell as you cut through their spinal cord. I am very much against this unnecessary surgery, they are born with tails and should keep their tails. Ban all ear and tail cropping speak up for those who cannot!

  8. Not so J. Cruelty to animals is to be prevented by our laws. Breeders have convinced themselves these mutilations are not cruel. They should be banned.

  9. I agree. Both tail docking and ear cropping, which even sounds painful, should be banned! I’ll sign any petition to ban these practices. You have to think of your dear pet before your own feelings. If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to your pet.

  10. Also support the ban! And if they do so, they should also ban the import of docked and cropped dogs, because otherwise greedy people will just get it done by our neighbors.

  11. In addition to banning tail docking and ear cropping, ban any breeds that will suffer in their lifetime too, like Frenchies, English bulldogs, pugs..anything that can’t even breathe properly or have natural births because of screwed up breeding standards.

  12. My dogs are cropped and docked. In hindsight I wish I never did this. Unless it is medically necessary, dogs should not be mutilated for the sake of vanity or “breed standard” (whatever that means!).

    Thank you for raising awareness. Here is hoping other pet owners avoid the same mistakes I have made.

  13. Cropping and docking is as cruel as circumcision. Who are we to say that it dosen’t hurt much because they are babies. How about we do it to an adult without anesthesia?! Or crop one’s ear’s?

  14. The only province that thinks owning a pitbull should be a crime but that mutilating your dog is perfectly fine? What a joke Ontario is.

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