Despite the fact that many countries have outlawed or restricted tail and ear docking, it is still a routine practice in the United States. Why is it that countries like Australia, Israel, South Africa, Norway, and Iceland have put limitations on this practice, but America has not?
There are countless articles outlining the cruelty of ear and tail cropping. For those unfamiliar, these purely cosmetic procedures shorten the tail or ears of a dog. For some breeds, cropped ears and tails have become a recognizable trait. But just because breeders started cropping dogs’ tails and ears for aesthetic reasons doesn’t mean we have to continue the practice.
Other dog associations, such as the American Kennel Club, still need some convincing. The organization recognizes 20 breeds with docked ears and 62 with docked tails. AKC maintains that these practices are not as painful as detractors claim and cites the historical purpose of the breeds as a reason to continue the practice:
Ear cropping and tail docking are historical procedures performed in some cases for over 100 years that help some dogs better and more safely perform the functions for which they were originally bred.
However, many of these dogs are not used for their original purpose. Dachshunds are not as prominently used to hunt badgers as they are to add to your Instagram feed. Brussels Griffons are not acting as ratters and do not need their ears cropped to avoid infection-inducing bites.
Advocates of tail docking also claim that puppies do not feel the procedure, as their nerves ending are not fully developed. There are two ways to perform a tail docking procedure: a vet can cut through skin, cartilege, and bone to remove the tip, or they can place a rubber band-like ligature around the base of the tail, which cauess the tip to fall off in a few days. According to a 1996 study, both of these procedures cause puppies pain:
All puppies vocalized intensely (‘shrieking’) at the time of amputation of the tail, averaging 24 shrieks (range of 5 to 33). The average number of minor vocalizations (‘whimpers’) made during docking was 18 (range of 2 to 46)
So if the dogs feel pain, and there is no functional reason behind tail and ear docking, why do people do it? At the end of the day, it truly is about organization-imposed breed standards and human preference. There may be a handful of dogs that require docking in some form for medical purposes, but they are the exception, not the rule.
Clubs such as the AKC need to stop taking off points for entrants who do not meet the “breed requirements” of surgically altered tails and ears. The arguments presented by advocates of the practice are weak, veiled attempts at protecting procedures that ultimately hurt dogs more than help them.
What are your thoughts on tail and ear docking? Do you think breed clubs should still impose these standards for contests? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.