In this day and age, it is staggering to think that clandestine surgery is being carried out on canines for purely cosmetic reasons – but that’s exactly what’s happening. Sadly, on the frontline for the Scottish SPCA, we are seeing a growing trend of ear cropping in dogs.
Two years ago we hardly had a single dog in our care with cropped ears. Now, as we investigate more and more reports of serious animal welfare crimes, we have seized more dogs who have been subjected to this needless operation. Our intelligence points to a demand for people to own ear-cropped dogs as a ‘status symbol’ of sorts, as it can often make the breeds who are typically used for it – American bullies, cane corsos, Dobermans and canary mastiffs – appear more menacing.
This creates a common misconception that these dogs are bred for fighting, when in reality they are more like a cruelly-treated fashion accessory.
What’s most galling is that the operations are often carried out off-grid because any surgical procedure purely for aesthetic purposes is illegal regardless of who carries it out.
Vet practitioners are bound by law and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Code of Conduct and as such are unable to carry out these unlawful procedures.
To avoid detection, breeders subject the dogs to unsafe operations behind closed doors. They often use makeshift surgical instruments, without proper and safe anaesthetics and subsequent pain relief.
It goes without saying that this kind of cosmetic procedure causes significant pain and suffering. Some of these dogs are as young as six weeks old when operated on.
The combination of unsafe equipment, improper procedures and an unsterile environment creates a cocktail ripe for infection.
After the operation, the potential for ongoing health issues is high and, because the original operation was itself illegal, subsequent infections and health problems are often covered up or improperly treated to avoid detection when what the dogs need most is expert veterinary care.
New breeders are continuously popping up across Scotland and carrying out these backyard-butcher procedures in order to increase the value of the puppies they breed, with the pups fetching anywhere from £1,000 to £3,000.
It’s a terrible shame that a large proportion of people do not realise that these dogs with cropped ears shouldn’t look like they do.
These procedures are of no benefit to the dog and are carried out for purely selfish reasons, with the possibility of detrimental effects on their health, behaviour and welfare.The Scottish SPCA has had some successes in taking those engaging in ear cropping to task. Earlier this year we successfully aided in the prosecution of two women who pleaded guilty to permitting a prohibited procedure on a protected animal and causing a prohibited procedure on a protected animal.
The couple allowed ear cropping to be carried out on one of their young dogs. Both women were given a one-year conduct requirement order, 80 hours’ community payback and a five-year ban on dealing and trading in dogs.
Despite our successes, we are convinced many cases are going unreported and we rely on the public to help us bring those responsible to justice.
If you have any concerns or information about ear cropping you can report them to our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.