Cropping ears, docking tails, breed standards, and selective breeding…who’s really benefitting humans or dogs!


July 31, 2009

Cropping ears, docking tails, breed standards, and selective breeding…who’s really benefitting humans or dogs!

This week Banfield, The Pet Hospital®, “leading veterinary practice known for its focus on preventive care and experienced-based medicine” has issued a proclamation they will no longer “sanction” cropping of ears and docking of tails.  Excuse me if I do not get a warm fuzzy emotional charge like many who have opposed this practice! 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, they have attempted to persuade the AKC to change breed standards requiring ear cropping and tail docking since the 1970’s [1]!  According to AVMA, their attempts have been “resolved” in 1976 Policy, “suggested” in 1999 Policy and most recently “recommended” in their 2008 Policy.  So it seems the AVMA has made subtle attempts to change these procedures, but continue being thwarted by the AKC and at least one veterinary medical association (e.g. Utah Veterinary Medical Association) [2]. 

According to the JAVMA regarding AVMA policy on ear cropping and tail docking, the HOD were to consider revising their policy, this meeting took place in June 2009.  According to their report, resolution 4 “gives the HOD” [House of Delegates] an opportunity to consider revision to the AVMA’s policy amended in November 2008 stating it opposed these procedures “done solely for cosmetic purposes.”  The policy further encouraged eliminating the procedures from breed standards [2].

The Utah VMA says, “[s]ociety has mixed feelings about the procedures,” stating they are minor surgeries, relatively safe, causing little discomfort to animals and the public demand is high.  They further stated, “the issue for the AVMA is not to decide what surgery pet owners want or do not want for their pets” instead focus should be on the procedures being performed by licensed veterinarians using proper protocol and postoperative care.” 

Before I get to the real issue, I wanted to highlight exactly what has/is being done by the AVMA regardless of Banfield’s newest position; however, it would be interesting to know exactly why they made this decision.  Considering Banfield claims to be “known for its focus on preventative care,” seems hypocritical coming from a “leading veterinary practice” that chooses to waste the public’s time and attention on a matter that is significantly less important than how selective breeding practices affect pets welfare. 

There are currently numerous dog breeds with high rates of inheritable disorders, disease, physical deformities causing disability, behavior problems, pain, and suffering.  The authors of “Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?”  suggest we as a society and segments of the veterinary community are ‘desensitis[z]ed to the welfare issues…the production of anatomically deformed dogs is neither shocking, nor considered abnormal.’

Some of the lowlights of this welfare problem follow.

1.)     A popular veterinary text book lists 150 pages of breed predispositions for specific disorders with some breeds predisposed to more than ninety different diseases.  One can expect a certain amount of genetic disorders in closed breeding populations, but the levels indicated here suggest cause for concern.

2.)     Breed clubs, societies, kennel clubs, breeding standards, and practices are ineffective in protecting the welfare of many breeds.

3.)     Large populations of dogs are affected, it is an international problem

4.)     The effects are perpetuated from generation to generation

5.)     Quality of life issues affect many of these breeds

6.)     The effects are often long lasting, some the entire dogs life

Now considering the two issues, do you still feel compelled to put your time and energy toward worrying about cosmetic surgery on dogs or breeding problems that affect their quality of life and welfare? 

Does anyone think the public might be interested in knowing about these issues when considering a dog breed?  Instead, pet owners often focus on cosmetic qualities, the latest winner at Westminster or just because the Jack Russell terrier is cute!  I consider it an ethical responsibility if someone inquires about a breed they are considering to share information they may not hear directly from unscrupulous breeders, pet stores or internet sites, just in the market to sell dogs; we all want to help owners in many different ways, but the most important still remains education. 


1.)     History of Policy on Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs, American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Division , retrieved 08.01.09

2.)     AVMA Web site ( in the About the AVMA section under House of Delegates 2009 Annual Session Agenda Items, retrieved 08.01.09.

3.)     Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern? by Dr. Nicola Rooney and Dr. David Sargan, contributions from Dr. Matthew Pead, Dr. Carrie Westgarth, Dr. Emma Creighton and Dr. Nick Branson, February 2009, retrieved from .


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The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.  Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948

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