Under a new provincial bylaw, Manitoba vets can no longer perform ear cropping surgery on dogs, The Winnipeg Free Press reports. Anyone performing this surgery can be charged under Manitoba’s Animal Care Act.
Ear cropping is a common cosmetic surgery performed on puppies of certain breeds, usually between the ages of seven to 12 weeks. It’s used by breeders and dog owners to achieve breed standards, specifically, the perky ears Doberman pinschers and miniature pinschers are known for.
A Doberman owner quoted in the story said that his dog is the only one of his litter to have natural ears. He said, “We werenít going to show him. But we were told it would be better for him hygienically.”† He remained steadfast and spared his dog the painful surgery and long recovery time. In fact, there is no medical reason for ear cropping. The story of ear hygiene seems to be a myth some breeders and dog showers will use as an excuse when they are questioned.
There are, however, many hygienic and other reasons not to crop a dog’s ears. The surgery involves removing two-thirds of the ear flap, leaving the edges ragged and bloody, and cutting into the dog’s nerves. Besides the risk of infection, the dog has to be put under general anesthesia for the procedure, which is also inherently risky for young puppies. After the initial surgery, the dog needs to have his ears taped back for six weeks, in order to train them into the desired shape. It’s not unlike female foot-binding as practiced in Old Japan.
The fine is $5, 000 for a first offense, and much higher on repeat offenses. But in fact, a majority of vets already oppose this surgery and did not offer the service. Violation of the ban within the province is unlikely.
Still, the bylaw has upset some breeders, who are blaming outspoken vets for its passing. Gaylene Robertson, quoted in the article, said, “It should be left as a choice for individual vets. And itís an issue of our rights. Itís going down a slippery slope on our rights.”
Although ear cropping may now be illegal in Manitoba, with Newfoundland and Labrador having banned the practice previously, and several other provinces apparently ready to follow suit, another controversial surgery remains on the books.
Tail docking, which simply involves snipping off the end of a dog’s tail, again primarily for cosmetic purposes, has been banned in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but nowhere else in Canada, so far. Both docking and cropping are performed only on certain breeds, where there is a common belief among breeders and dog showers that this is what the breed is “supposed” to look like. However, dogs from breeds that are commonly cropped and/or docked (which include Dobermans, boxers and Australian shepherds) can and do win dog shows with natural ears and tails.
The Humane Society has long had a policy against these surgeries, and will not subject rescued animals to them, whatever breed they happen to be. Of course, animals taken in from a seizure or surrendered by their owners will likely have had the surgery done already, since it’s performed at a young age. Manitoba breeders, or Canadian breeders, as more and more provinces pass the bylaw, will retain the option of getting the surgery done in the United States or elsewhere.
But if the difficulty or expense is too great, maybe they’ll have to give up their aesthetic preferences, or stop breeding altogether. Although I’m not a big fan of buying purebreds in the first place, I would be happy if the cropped-ear Doberman became a rare specimen, instead of the standard most of us have come to expect. I hate to see any animal suffer for human vanity.
Photo credit: jsmjr