Ear Cropping

17 Jul

People always ask me if my job is sad, or if it is hard to deal with the losses. It is. There’s no doubt in that. But most of the time, the animals are sick, tired, old, and they are ready to go. It feels natural.

But last Saturday, one of the cases we saw really got to me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

We had a new puppy visit, a dog who had been picked up from the breeder the day before. Usually, these are happy appointments. Who doesn’t love an awkward and cheerful puppy? They jump all over you, they squirm, they get a confused look on their face when we take their temperature for the first time.

This puppy visit was a doberman. Doberman puppies are adorable. They have massive, club-like paws and soft muzzles. Unfortunately, they are often wearing the funny hats pictured above. Dobermans were originally bred to be guard and attack dogs. Owners started cropping their ears, so that attackers wouldn’t be able to grab onto them during an attack. Since then, it has become an AKC (American Kennel Club) standard for the breed. So the snobs of the world insist on keeping the tradition alive for appearances sake.

So nowadays, at the tender age of 7-12 weeks, doberman puppies (this is done in a couple of other breeds as well) are taken to a vet to have 2/3 of their naturally floppy ears cut off, stitched up, and taped to a Styrofoam cup on their heads. This is in hopes that their ears will eventually stand up on their own. If they don’t, further surgery is required. Again, let me reiterate that this is done for purely aesthetic reasons to comply with what the AKC says a doberman should look like.

So on Saturday, I held the sweet Doberman puppy while Dr. R cleaned the pus from the ear wounds and tried to remove the tape as gently as possible. The puppy screamed in pain and wiggled in my arms. It broke my heart. Hearing a puppy cry is always a sad, sad moment. But this stung especially, because it was so unnecessary. Dr. R explained to me that it is all because of the AKC’s standards and that most vets refuse to do the ear cropping procedure, herself included. It is even illegal in many European countries.

It’s so senseless. I brought the newly bandaged puppy back to her owner. She was texting away on her iphone. She had a Louis Vuitton purse on the chair next to her. And I was bringing her back her newest accessory. Of course, it wasn’t my place to say anything. But all I really wanted to know was, aren’t floppy ears just as adorable? Isn’t this just as fashionable?


2 Responses to “Ear Cropping”

  1. Kate Wagner June 30, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    I am actually picking up my doberman puppy this coming Saturday and her ears have been cropped. We purchased her for the purpose of guard and protection, and after thoroughly reading through pros & cons about cropping, we chose to crop. We also have two labradors who suffer with (despite our best efforts) pretty chronic ear infections, of which (according to research) the cropping almost completely eliminates the risk. The look of the breed to me is preferable w/ the ears cropped and tail docked, I think because that is always how I have always seen the breed, and without the docked tail and cropped ears, they look like larger chested hound dogs, which although they are beautiful, they don’t look intimidating or dissuading to a would-be attacker. Although I recognize that natural is better, in cases of defense dogs, because of the potential tearing of the ear or grabbing of the tail etc. during a defensive action, I believe the initial discomfort of docking and cropping is preferred over the risk of potential damage and injury later. It only took me seeing in my research of the issue, the almost 100% diminishment of ear infections to seal the deal. My lab/beagle cross experiences such discomfort while his ear infections clear up, let alone the damage the antibiotics have to his system that if I could crop his ears to relieve him of future infections, I would. So, just in your review of what pet owners might be thinking, or the labeling of someone texting in the office while she took her puppy to the vet to have complications addressed (she took him/her, right??), know that there are those of us out here, who dock and crop for the safety of the dog. If the dog is a fun pet, and you don’t plan to have defense training, then perhaps you shouldn’t put the animal through an uncomfortable procedure. The same could be argued for spaying and neutering, or removing the dew claws for hunting dogs who tear them frequently during retrievals, or grooming an animal who experiences panic and anxiety when taken to the groomer. There are always many arguments for actions taken by pet owners. Let’s instead try to educate pet owners of the potential benefits and the potential side effects and let the pet owner make an informed decision based upon their needs and intentions in having the animal. Hopefully your assessment of owners as they enter the clinic with a Louis Vuitton bag and an iPhone, isn’t blanket labeling as a pet owner who only has a pet as an “accessory”. I hope you are more open minded than your blog post might otherwise indicate.

    • Chrissy June 30, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      I appreciate your comment on this post and would like to take the time to respond to some of your concerns. I do apologize for not mentioning that some working dogs have their ears cropped as a means of protection. I understand that is the right of the owner to maintain their “security detail” in top condition and to prevent ear tearing in a confrontation. However, out of the hundreds of cropped dogs I have seen at my clinic, not one is a working dog. These clients I see are making this decision for aesthetic reasons which I don’t agree with. And your claim that there is a “100% diminishment” in ear infections is absolutely untrue. I’d like to direct you to this article by the American Veterinary Medical Association that demonstrates how this is more of a theory than a fact and that the incidences of ear infections are more breed and individual specific and ear cropping is not an approved solution to this problem.
      The clients I see are free to make their own decisions regarding their pets. We see declaws, debarking, and other harsh procedures that clients believe is in the best interest for their pet, and sometimes I agree with them. However, in my career, I have yet to see an animal who I believe benefited from the painful procedure of ear cropping.

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