The registrants of the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) voted in favour of banning cosmetic ear cropping of dogs. The decision brings British Columbia in line with the majority of provinces across Canada and supports the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) position on the practice.
“Ear cropping is an unnecessary procedure unless carried out in cases of injury or for reasons of health concerns,” says College Registrar and Chief Executive Officer Larry Odegard. No scientific evidence supports a welfare or medical benefit for ear cropping, but evidence does show a detrimental effect on behaviour and canine communication.
While breed associations continue to resist ear cropping bans because of historical practices, “veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to the animals they treat,” explains Odegard. “Ear cropping goes against that responsibility.”
Craig Daniell, Chief Executive Officer of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the BC SPCA supports the CVBC ban, noting that the society opposes any physical alteration of an animal’s body for cosmetic or behavioural reasons, except procedures performed by a licensed veterinarian to alleviate suffering or for reasons of welfare. “For nearly two decades we have been on record opposing procedures such as tail docking, ear cropping, devocalization and declawing that impact an animal’s ability to experience good welfare and to express natural behaviours.”
The ban makes cosmetic cropping an unethical practice of veterinary medicine, and veterinarians found continuing the practice will face disciplinary action from the CVBC. The provinces Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act authorizes the BC SPCA to investigate and recommend charges against any person, veterinarian or otherwise, believed to be carrying out such procedures.
The CVMAs position statement on cosmetic surgeries and reference materials can be found here: w.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/cosmetic-alteration
Other position statements:
- American Veterinary Medical Association – www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Ear-Cropping-and-Tail-Docking-of-Dogs.aspx
- American Animal Hospital Association – www.aahanet.org/Library/CropDock.aspx
- World Small Animal Veterinary Association – www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/WSAVA%20CodeOfConductManual_October2010.pdf
- BC SPCA position – www.spca.bc.ca/assets/documents/welfare/position-statements/cosmetic-and-other.pdf
Many countries prohibit ear cropping including much of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In the past several years, veterinary regulators in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, PEI, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have passed bylaws that prohibit their members from performing cosmetic surgeries including ear cropping. Newfoundland has had, for many years, a legal prohibition against ear cropping.
Breed associations maintain a stance that relies on their opinion that the historical purebred breeds would be saved and preserved for our future generations only if cropping was continued. In the opinion of many veterinary professionals and animal scientists cropping for cosmetic purposes is a human alteration to a breed, is an unwarranted surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia, and in some cases results in complications such as infection, pain and death.
Dog communication is based in large part of body posture, eye gaze, and tail and ear placement.
In Canada, the CVMA has tried to communicate their concerns about cosmetic surgeries to the dog breeding community. The CVMA has consistently encouraged breed associations and kennel clubs to change breed standards and their stance on cosmetic alterations. One concern that breeders have is that their dogs will not be able to compete against cropped dogs in shows. However, this is changing. In the United Kingdom, the Kennel Club prohibits dogs with cropped ears from competing in shows; breed associations here in Canada and North America could do the same.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) within BC gives the BC SPCA the authority to investigate and recommend charges against any person who causes distress to an animal, as defined in the PCA Act. There is an exception for veterinarians who may cause distress to an animal by virtue of performing a procedure in accordance with the standards of the profession. With ear cropping no longer considered an acceptable procedure in accordance with the standards of the profession, any individual performing the procedure and causing distress could face charges under the PCA Act.
According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association ear cropping is also banned by veterinary regulators in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; while Newfoundland and Labrador has a legal prohibition against ear cropping.