This past week, Banfield Pet Hospitals made headlines for creating a new hospital policy that prohibits their veterinarians from performing ear-cropping and tail-docking surgeries. As the largest veterinary hospital chain in America, Banfield has brought the cosmetic procedures center stage and have given us all a great chance to understand that these once-common surgeries no longer have a place for pet dogs.
Ear crops and tail docks were once utilitarian, to protect the dogs when their primary purpose was not that of a pet, but of a worker. Schnauzers were popular for ratting and farm work and Boxers were commonly used in dogfighting, and in both situations, a floppy ear could be easily punctured and damaged. The purpose in tail docking was similarly purpose-driven — to prevent trauma or infection in farm-working dogs like Rottweilers, or field-working dogs like Weimaraners.
Unfortunately, myths persist about the need for cropping and docking in modern pets. Many people believe a Doberman Pinscher’s tail is too long and too strong to remain natural without injury, but I believe it is no stronger than that of most Labradors or Greyhounds. People also argue in favor of cropping to promote “health” of a dogs ears, but this logic is clearly only used to promote the aesthetic drive of people, because by that direction, breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds should have their ears cropped to reduce the incidence of infections that plague those breeds. I have never seen a cocker with her ears taped up, have you?
Some people will take the argument for puppy plastic surgery even further by suggesting if cropping and docking are outlawed, then spay and neuter should be prohibited as well. But the reality is millions of dogs and puppies die in shelters for a lack of homes each year. I have yet to hear of a dog being euthanized because he has floppy ears. Cropping and docking are cosmetic procedures, plain and simple.
Crops and docks are illegal throughout much of Europe because it is considered cruel to cut off a dogs body parts to please our idea of what is “beautiful.” Banfield has made a smart and humane move by recognizing that our dogs are beautiful just the way they are.