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Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM

Banfield Veterinary Group Bans Ear Cropping and Tail Docking

By August 4, 2009

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Doberman Pinscher by Getty Images/George JonesBanfield, The Pet Hospital®, is based in Portland, Oregon and operates several veterinary practice hospitals in the United States, the United Kingdom and Mexico. They employ thousands of veterinary personnel and staff. As the largest privately held veterinary practice in the US, when they make an "in-house" decision, it is news.

Banfield recently announced that the practice group will no longer perform cosmetic (elective) ear crops and tail docking for dogs. They join many veterinary practices who have already elected not to perform these cosmetic procedures.

Ear cropping is when the floppy ear portion of some dog breeds (examples: Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Boxer, Schnauzer) is surgically removed - amputated - to make the ear stand up. Opinions vary, but this was originally done to adhere to breed standards; the desired "look" of the breed.

Tail docking is also done for some breeds (examples: Cocker Spaniel, Boxer, Doberman, Vizsla) and is the amputation of the tail, the length of remaining portion of tail is determined by the breed standard. Some breeds, such as the Welsh Corgi, have naturally occurring short tails, but are sometimes docked to be shorter.

Tail docking has been discussed many times on this site. Medical reasons to crop or dock are not in question -- there are definitely medical reasons for docking and partial ear flap removal too, most often in the case of injury or diseases such as cancer removal.

Ear cropping and tail docking for purely cosmetic reasons has been banned in many countries, including the United Kingdom. The AVMA and the WSAVA, two veterinary organizations, have spoken out against ear cropping and tail docking, in opposition to the official position of the AKC (PDF document, page 10) about breed standards.

Public Awareness
Banfield is hoping to educate the public and end these surgeries for cosmetic purposes. "It is our hope that this new medical protocol will help reduce, and eventually eliminate, these cosmetic procedures altogether" says Karen Faunt, DVM, MS, DACVIM, vice president for medical quality advancement for Banfield, The Pet Hospital. Read full press release

I am glad for the awareness and discussion, as I am definitely not for these types of surgeries (medical reasons excepted of course). There was a story earlier this year about Oliver, a sweet 4-month old puppy who had his ears amputated without anesthesia. With a scissors. Something was then used to burn the ears to stop the bleeding. All of this done so the dog would "look tough" as he grew older.

While the people who did this to Oliver won't be swayed by this announcement, maybe the general public will recognize the choice involved here. I hope that eventually the natural look is the desired look.

What do you think?
What is your opinion about cosmetic ear crops and tail docks? Have you had your dog cropped or docked? Why did you elect to do the procedure(s)? Please post your comments below.

Related Reading:

Photo: Doberman Pinscher by Getty Images/George Jones

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August 5, 2009 at 3:03 am
(1) Tiffany says:

Well with vets not offering these services I sure hope we don’t see more home alterations done to animals. It seems a likely outcome to me. Even if it is not the most humane thing at least animals that are cosmetically altered at a vet are given pain medicines or anesthetics, monitored, and in a sterile environment. And what about declawing cats? You want to ban the cosmetic altering of animals… but you are still going to rip their toenails out one by one? The toe nails are a cats main defense mechanism.

August 5, 2009 at 3:19 am
(2) vetmedicine says:

I agree – the possibility of more “home alterations” is scary, for sure.

The topic of cat declawing is coming up. I have received some notable bites and hind claw scratches from declawed cats. Personally, I have lived with cats my whole life and none have been/are declawed, so you can guess what my take is on that.

August 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm
(3) Christine Hibbard says:

Whether or not qualified veterinarians are willing to mutilate dogs for the show ring or social standards is a less interesting discussion to me than the social implications. I agree that if a dog is going to go through an ear cropping or tail docking, I’d much rather it be done by a qualified veterinarian. Some of the most tragic cases I’ve seen are rescue dogs where owners tried the procedure on their own (gruesome).

I find it interesting that the AKC so rarely comes up in the discussions on ear cropping and tail docking. The AKC set these “standards” many years ago. Now they’re just beginning to take the “we won’t mark points off for NOT mutilating your dog” position unlike Europe where they’ve made mutilation against the law in some countries. The breed standards change instantly.

If we change the social norms (are you listening AKC?), people won’t go looking for these procedures. Mutilating a dog won’t be socially acceptable and when dogs can’t compete in the show ring, the social norm will change.

Cat declawing and dog de-barking are topics for other posts.

August 5, 2009 at 5:13 pm
(4) Melissa Ndiaye says:

As an owner of Great Danes, I would just like to mention that neither of my Danes have docked ears, but I wish they did. My dogs are constantly tearing and injuring their ears running through the woods. I have 260 achres and they use it all. I go through so much peroxide,neosporin, and coban to dress the injuries on their ears. When my Mystic has puppies, I will definitely look into ear docking.

August 9, 2009 at 12:29 pm
(5) barb says:

I applaud Banfield. As a vet I have seen complications form the ear crop surgery and it was frustrating to deal with owners that were never satisfied of how their ears looked. I always felt empathy for the poor dog, not aware of their owner’s needs. Cropping for cosmetic reasons is not an acceptable practice and I elected to stop it.

Hopefully, more vet hospitals will follow.

About dogs getting their ears scratched in the brush, think of it as a child getting their legs scratched from playing in the woods. It is not a big deal, dogs have done well with floppy ears for many years…

August 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm
(6) alexadry says:

I have seen awful ”do it yourself” ear croppings on you tube videos. Unimaginable stuff, I have posted on my website. While it may be ”acceptable” to have ear crops done in a sterile environment with a good vet, I still cannot grasp the concept of getting it done in the first place.

What is a breed standard? If a dog was born with its ears floppy isn’t that the actual breed standard? Doesn’t nature decide how a dog should look like? Who are we to decide how a dog should look like?

Cropping ears in a dog breed is like putting under the knife an oriental baby to have its eyes shaped from almond to normal, or whitening the skin of an African american baby, what sane of mind person would do that?

August 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm
(7) PC says:

Even the way the “spotlight” spotlight is featured is telling. Words like mutilation and breed standard as if it were a dirty word. The politics are ignorance around this topic are disgusting and unless you really know the ins and outs the comments are even irresponsible. As a breeder and exhibitor I support health research and am constantly increasing my knowledge about nutrition, behavior and techniques for raising the best possible pets. I don’t make money at what I do nor do most people I know that breed and show. We are careful to seek out well trained vets to do procedures we can not. Many vets are not trained or knowledgeable in some areas and that is where the problems come in. I am used to working with my vet in a partnership. It’s getting harder and harder to find. Some vets should be doing a better job in counseling amateur “breeders” from breeding unhealthy or displaying unhealthy structure or conditions. It’s rare that it happens. One because vets are not trained in reproduction. So bottom line …. where do you think all the pet dogs will come from in the end when dedicated breeders have had enough. Before the popular attack continues you better think that one through. The best pets don’t just happen. Mass produced and overseas ……. already exists as pet imports.

I get very frustrated with this line and as for Banfield……. I won’t go there are shop where they are located for anything.

I also think that ear piercing and tatoos should be banned. Humans aren’t born with them. It is a mutilation.

I have a breed that I dock and dewclaw … myself. I was trained by a professional who worked with me. It is a procedure that is almost bloodless and casues no more than a twitch from the pup. The tail docking is handy on keeping the dogs sanitary as they are coated and I have seen more dew claws ripped off or torn in my experience as a groomer. If you don’t know or realize that than I hope your ears are open and your mouth is closed. If there is an alteration that someone does not like, relax, I won’t come up to your sister and tell her what I think of her tatoos.

Some breeds are in trouble and the ones prepared to deal with the problems are working on them. The problems aren’t just isolated to genetics either .
over vaccination and feed components add to the mix. Compounding the problem is that many dogs are bred by people who don’t take the time to understand what they are doing. Those problems get passed to the unsuspecting public who likewise does not do their homework when purchasing a dog. It should not be treated like a fast food outing. The problems are many …….. like everything else.

August 13, 2009 at 12:45 am
(8) Hossridr says:

Well, I have a Springer Spaniel. Her tail is cropped. I see nothing inhumane about this if the procedure is professionally done. I’m sure there are botched procedures all the time, but cruelty to animals comes in many forms. I mean, I guess I could condemn the dog shows and all of the stress those shows put on dogs, not to mention the constant primping and grooming and training the animals have to go through. If one person wants to nitpick concerning a certain procedure another person can nitpick also.

I live in Monterey County, near Hollister, where those idiots cropped that poor dogs ears without anesthetic. We have many dog “breeders” around this area who “breed” these dogs for fighting. There are busts all the time for dog fighting events. But, to put honest breeders and others in that group is not right. There are more important issues to be dealt with, concerning animals, then condemning cropping of tails and ears, etc.

August 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm
(9) Robbin (N. Y ) says:

I have had Dobe’s for many year’s, I ALWAY”S loved
that Doberman look! Noble, Regal, and Protecter…
All of my Dobe’s, past, and present, and future, were, and are, and will be cropped, and docked. There is NOTHING wrong by having that done, as long
as you are having it done by an experinced vet.It is
a owener’s personal choice, and money, to do what they want…sorry to say, but certain people, should
mind there own. I grew up in the 70′s, and I fell in
love with…Doberman’s…to me, and many others, that LOOK is what make’s a Dobe…not look like a hound. As far as Banfield goes, I would NEVER bring
any of my Dobe’s there…so I could care less that they won’t do it anymore. Bet ya they did a crappy
job anyway’s, I’m sure there is more to it then
Banfield saying, they don’t believe in cropping, and
docking!!! If there is money to make, and you have
experinced vet’s, believe me they would still be doing it!!!!!!! My vet. enjoy’s his talent, and says
that as long as there are owners who want it done,
believe me…we are MANY!!! He, and other vet’s will
continue…Freedom Of Choice!!! M.Y.O.B!!!!!!!!!!

August 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm
(10) Angela Gones says:

Thank you Banfield! I agree with you that the people who did home cropping did so with vets available and will continue to do so. I urge the people who agree with cropping/docking to read as much as they can about the pain and enduring problems their pets suffer for their owners vanity.

March 20, 2010 at 6:28 am
(11) angel says:

It does not take much to understand that ear cropping and tail docking is only done for the owner’s ego. It simple as this, and hopefully one day dog owners will be able to give the same unconditional love dogs are able to give. Ban these brutal and stupid practices! If already many countries have banned them why does the U.S have such a big issue in giving them up?

Oh, I forgot, that’s the country where people have fake boobs and use pets as fashion accessories!
A proud owner of Rottweilers with tails…

July 16, 2010 at 11:08 am
(12) peter says:

I really cannot grasp why people keep on comparing dog ear cropping with human ear piercings. This just shows how ignorant these people are. I do not think people would go get their ears pierced if it required total anesthesia (that is you are put under) and half or more of their ears chopped off. This is what an ear crop truely is. Now go give it a try, see if you would like to have getting your ears cropped. Good luck with that!

July 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm
(13) Heidi H Christensen says:

YEE HAW! NOW if we can just make it illegal and make the judges in the show ring stop picking winners who have docked tails or cropped ears! :(

January 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm
(14) leif says:

I think there are way too many ‘tree-hugger’ , ‘do-gooders’ out ther that just can’t mind thier own business! Ear cropping is an elective surgury to gain a more desirable look, so is breast surgury, but you certainly don’t see anybody objecting to that!! What’s next?? Don’t trim thier nails or give them baths because they wouldn’t get that naturaly? A dog is a pet AND a possesion, if you paid for the animal, you should be able to do what ever you want. Dobermann owners want a certain look (most anyway) and they pay to have it done properly and profesionally, thier dogs are well cared for and loved. If you don’t think your Dobe should have cropped ears, then leave them alone, but don’t push your opinions on everyone else!

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