Body Modification of Dogs: The Controversy
When people hear the term ‘body modification’ they automatically think of piercings and tattoos on humans However, dog body modifications exist in the form of ear cropping and tail docking. In the United States alone, 130,000 dogs undergo unnecessary cosmetic surgery simply to create a particular ‘look’ that the owner finds attractive.
What is Tail Docking on a Dog?
Tail Docking is the amputation of an animal’s tail. The tail is removed either by cutting or crushing. Around 70 breeds commonly have their tails docked when they are two to five days old. Anesthetic is rarely administered during the surgical process. Instead, the tail is either clamped or cut a short distance from the body. In some cases, a rubber band is used to stop the flow of blood to the remainder of the tail so that it falls off in about three days. A dog’s tail is filled with nerves, cartilage, muscle, and bone so the procedure causes a great deal of discomfort.
What is Dog Ear Cropping?
Ear cropping is the surgical reshaping of a dog’s ears. Usually, the pinna (floppy part) is cut away and discarded. About one-half of the ear is surgically removed when the puppy is nine to twelve weeks old. After removal of the ear, the remaining flap is taped in an erect position using splints or brackets.
History of Ear Cropping and Tail Docking
Humans have spent centuries docking and cropping the tails and ears of dogs. The process was conducted by the early Romans who believed it prevented rabies. In the Middle Ages, people would regularly dock and crop because they used the dogs for hunting, guarding, and fighting and believed the tail and ears could become injured easily in their natural state. Many owners also mistakenly believed that removing the tail made the dog more maneuverable and able to run faster.
In some parts of Europe, the dog’s owner was taxed if the animal was not used for work. To show that the dog was being used for work, the owner would dock the dog’s tail. Even the length of the dog’s tail was factored in. If the tail was not docked short, then the owner could be taxed for the remaining tail. Basically, it was accepted that only wealthy people owned long-tailed dogs so were required to pay a much higher tax than the commoner who only owned docked breeds.
The Controversy of Cropping and Docking
At this time, a great deal of controversy exists about tail docking and ear cropping. Many people believe that the surgical procedures are unnecessary and cause the dog unnecessary pain. Advocates of the process argue about the breed standard. Hunters continue to claim that docking a dog’s tail makes it easier for the animal to maneuver through the underbrush.
Many veterinarians have started to refuse to conduct body modification for dogs because they view it as unnecessary. They also include practices such as claw removal on cats and debarking dogs as unnecessary modifications that do more harm than good to the pet.