The RSPCA is urging the public not to buy dogs with cropped ears, as reports through the charity’s cruelty hotline rise from 14 in 2015 to 36 in 2017. It’s small numbers compared to the total dog population in the UK, but still a worrying 157 per cent increase over just two years – and there are fears that the problem may be bigger than it appears.
Ear cropping is illegal in England and Wales under Section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but the RSPCA believes that images of dogs with cropped ears on social media, especially from countries where ear cropping is legal or unregulated, is making the ‘look’ more popular.
This is going on within certain close-knit breed groups so we believe that many cases are slipping through the net unnoticed and that the issue is actually much bigger than we are aware
An undercover RSPCA Special Operations Unit (SOU) officer said, “Dogs with cropped ears are coming to our attention for lots of reasons. Many are being advertised on social media while others are being spotted at breed shows.
“We believe ear cropping is being carried out illegally in this country. And we also believe that many breeders, sellers and buyers are sending dogs abroad to have their ears cropped before bringing them back home.
“This is going on within certain close-knit breed groups so we believe that many cases are slipping through the net unnoticed and that the issue is actually much bigger than we are aware.”
Buying dogs from abroad, with ears already cropped, is another way to get around the law.
Chief inspector Mike Butcher, from the RSPCA’s SOU, said, “We’ve been made aware of lots of different breeds in which cropped ears is preferred to leaving the dogs’ ears as they would be naturally.
“There’s a cultural shift in what is popular. Social media, celebrity culture and imagery used in advertising is seeing that trend moving towards these bull breed type dogs, many of which have cropped ears. Ear cropping is becoming normalised and that’s something we need to put a stop to.
“We also think that many people simply aren’t aware that ear cropping is illegal. In some cases, people are misleadingly told that a cropped ear is more natural for the dog. That’s why it’s so important to get the right advice and information out there so owners can make informed decisions before buying a dog.”
The charity has a number of ongoing investigations into ear cropping in England. In November 2015, a man and woman from Essex were convicted for causing unnecessary suffering to a Doberman puppy by cropping and splinting his ears for cosmetic reasons.
Other than being unnecessary and painful, ear cropping can lead to health issues and behavioural problems. RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said, “Ear cropping is a process where ears are removed or surgically altered, usually for the purposes of appearance.
“It’s a painful and wholly unnecessary process which does not benefit the dog in any way and can, in fact, be detrimental to their health, behaviour and welfare. We do not believe dogs should be mutilated for cosmetic purposes and we’d urge people not to buy a dog with cropped ears as – whether the process was carried out here or overseas – they still will have undergone this very painful process.
Their ears are a vital part of this body language so, without them, they can struggle to let other dogs and people know when they’re feeling uncomfortable or anxious
“Dogs with cropped ears can have ongoing and unnecessary health issues associated with the procedure, such as wound infections. Depending on the breed and type of crop, the mobility of the ear can be altered and their behaviour can also be affected.
“Dogs use many parts of their body to communicate with other dogs and also with people. Their ears are a vital part of this body language so, without them, they can struggle to let other dogs and people know when they’re feeling uncomfortable or anxious. As a result of this, this can lead to problems with aggressive behaviour.”
The RSPCA is also seeing more dogs with cropped ears coming to their rescue centres. Two of them are Eaton the Neapolitan mastiff (main image), who came into rescue along with a brother whose ears were also cropped, and Anatolian shepherd Sammy (above), whose ears were likely cropped in Romania prior to moving to the UK.
Images by RSPCA.