Ear cropping in dogs refers to the practice of cutting off part of a dog’s ear flap, and then bandaging the ear so that it heals in an upright position. Tail docking involves cutting off the majority of the dog’s tail, usually when it is just a few days old. These practices have been carried out on domestic animals such as sheep (yes, they have tails!), pigs, horses, cows, and dogs for hundreds if not thousands of years. In working dogs, cropping and docking were historically carried out for “practical” purposes: to prevent injury and subsequent infection when dogs were protecting humans or hunting game.
Today, these procedures are almost entirely cosmetic. The AMVA openly opposes these operations when done for cosmetic purposes, while the AKC has gone so far as to vehemently oppose a New York bill seeking to ban the practices. The AKC preaches the continued utility of these amputations, stating: “tails are docked on breeds that are active in the field…pain if any, is momentary, but this procedure will prevent painful, serious injury later in life.”
The widespread acceptance of cropping and docking and the continued enforcement by the AKC of certain breed standards have popularized these painful procedures that remove two of the mail forms of communication for dogs: their tail and ears. The AKC chooses to ignore that the breeds most commonly cropped today are: Boxers, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Miniature Pinschers, Schnauzers, and American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers and that many of these breeds are closely associated with abuse through dog fighting. Since cropping makes a dog look tougher and less vulnerable, it is often done for that reason alone. I would argue that the continued legality of cropping and docking promotes the use of dogs for abusive purposes. By preserving breed standards and the “look” of certain breeds, the AKC is perpetuating practices that it admits are painful to the animal, that no longer serve a legitimate beneficial purpose for the animal, and often lead to its exploitation and mistreatment.