When Human Vanity Endangers Dogs

Cropping ears and docking tails is not only unnecessary for a dog’s health, but may even put them in danger.
Newly cropped ears
This Cane Corso appeared in my Instagram feed a few weeks ago because I follow the #dogsofinstagram hashtag. Whomever posted it asked for comments to caption the photo. My response was something to the effect of “Your vanity is my pain.”

One user posted follow-up comments to mine and others, suggesting dogs don’t have an issue with it. They said to me that many dogs with cropped ears lived “happier, healthier more expensive lives than half you crybabies complaining about ears” and that they “literally don’t care if their ears are clipped because they’re animals.” They “don’t hang up on trivial shit and y’alls humanize them way too much.”

Leaving aside the gap in logic that says I’m somehow anthropomorphizing too much, and the dogs are actually cool with being disfigured, the animals’ pain is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Not only are ear cropping and tail docking very painful procedures, but the reasons proponents give for these disfiguring rituals don’t hold up to scrutiny. As well, the more aggressive appearance may actually endanger these dogs due to media bias, public perception and breed-specific legislation.

Pain

Central nervous systems all work the same way. All animals with one feel pain. If you need more on that, watch the video below.

Health

Rarely, someone who crops dog ears will admit openly they do so because they like the look or they think it’s how the breed is supposed to look. More often they couch this goal in the suggestion that they crop the ear for the dog’s health, saying that their floppy-eared dog is more likely to get ear infections.

However, while some breeds are predisposed to ear infections, rarely has it much to do with how floppy their ears are. The clipping may, in fact, negatively affect their interactions with other animals and human beings. To that end, many jurisdictions, including British Columbia, have actually banned ear cropping:

There is no scientific evidence that supports a welfare or medical benefit for ear cropping, but evidence does show a detrimental effect on behaviour and canine communication, according to the college.

The evidence supporting tail docking is just as non-existent. You won’t find anything, short of wives’ tales about preventing rabies or strengthening the spine. A dog’s tail is actually part of the spine, and if yours extended beyond your tailbone, I expect you’d prefer to not have it hacked off.

Vanity

While some jurisdictions are banning docking and cropping procedures, many owners still disfigure their dogs. With no real evidence supporting claims of reduced health risk, these owners are either ignorant or place their cosmetic preferences above the animal’s well-being.

There’s no point in getting into a dispute about taste, but this reasoning for mutilation is weak in the extreme. Just because an animal is typically very young when it’s done and these owners feel it can’t remember the pain, why put it through the ordeal in the name of a stubby tail or pointy ears? Further, what if disfiguring your dog this way actually endangered its life?

Public and Media Perception

The long-term effects of tail docking and ear cropping on dogs and their owners can actually last a lifetime. In research published in 2016 by the Animal Welfare Program at UBC, not only did participants assume that tail docking and ear cropping were genetic traits, but dogs with these traits were perceived differently from those left in their natural state:

Modified dogs were perceived as being more aggressive, more dominant, less playful and less attractive than natural dogs. [This] is the first evidence that owners of modified dogs are perceived as being more aggressive, more narcissistic, less playful, less talkative and less warm compared to owners of natural dogs.

Floppy Ears have a softer look
When you couple these perceptions with the fact that breeds such as Pit Bulls already suffer greatly due to Breed-Specific Legislation, the stigma and impact of cropping ears can’t be underestimated.

In fact, one Calgary vet feels cropped ears are not only worse for a dog’s health, but may lead directly to euthanasia due to the concerns I’ve raised above.

In closing, there is simply no valid argument for mutilating your dog’s body, and in fact you may be putting it at greater risk of harm or even death.