We live in a world where being nice is overrated.
Let me explain. What I mean by “being nice” is saying nothing in situations where raising your voice could make a difference.
A few days ago, I saw a woman at the airport loading a puppy into her car with freshly cropped and bandaged ears. I was struck by the sad and broken look in the puppy’s eyes, as if he were saying:
I trusted my mom, but I am confused. She left me with these strangers, and they cut my ears off. I am in so much pain!”
For a few seconds, I stood there, trying to grasp that some people still put their puppies through such torture. I was torn between “being nice” and saying nothing, or opening up a direct and honest conversation that could potentially end in being yelled at.
If I could have a dialogue between the “nice” Peter (NP) and direct Peter (DP) this is what it could possibly look like:
DP: “Say something!”
NP: “Shut up, it’s not your business what other people do with their dogs!”
DP: “But she may not even know that ear cropping inflicts serious pain and affects her dog’s health”
NP: "Yes, but it is not your business, and she will yell at you!”
DP: "Yes, but this nonsense has to stop, and it will never stop if everyone was “nice” like you."
NP: "You are rude!"
DP: “Listen Mr. Nice, if everyone was like you, nothing would ever change! I am done with you!”
I PAUSED and then SPOKE UP:
Me: "Excuse me, I love your puppy and you must love him too. I know there is nothing you can do now but did you know that ear cropping and tail docking is illegal in many countries and states?"
Ms. Cropper: “No. Really? Why?”
Me: "Can you imagine having your ears cut? Plus ear cropping has no real purpose.”
Ms. Cropper gave me "THE LOOK".
Me: "You may think it is not my business but to a certain degree it is. I am a vet so I know how the surgery is done, and the ear has many very sensitive nerve endings. Cutting into the ear is very painful."
Ms. Cropper: “Really?”
Me: "I just hope you will remember our conversation if you get another dog. Take care.”
I waved goodbye, and got into my car. As I was driving home, my memories took me more than 30 years back to when I was doing my practicum as a veterinary student.
My father (who was also a veterinarian) had given me the task of stitching up a dog's freshly cropped ears. The layers of skin and cartilage were sliding against each other, bleeding profusely, and I remember being very upset. Even then, I knew that ear cropping had nothing to do with healing or the oath of doing no harm that doctors take on graduation.
I picked up my phone and posted the following message on Facebook:
Posting the message was therapeutic, but also helpful. It helped me understand how the pro-croppers think, and I feel a little more at peace after seeing their reaction.
Most people who were pro-cropping posted very angry and sometimes verbally abusive messages. What we know about anger is that it is usually an expression of some sort of fear. This means that pro-croppers are angry because they fear they may be wrong and have done harm to their dogs. I can understand why because once ears are cropped, the procedure can’t be undone.
This made it much easier for me not to take the Facebook insults personally.
Some people argue that ear cropping is as justified as spays and neuters
I know that for some people, spay and neuter are controversial. Spaying and neutering at the right age prevents the unimaginable suffering of homeless dogs that often end up in kill shelters and die. To me, spay and neuter is a solution that prevents a greater degree of suffering and animal over-population, while ear cropping is a purely aesthetic and meaningless procedure.
Does injury prevention justify cropping?
Some pro-croppers argued that cutting off the ears decreases the likelihood of an injury. Does this mean that we should start chopping off legs, toes, and other body parts because of the possibility of injury, cuts, or fractures?
Does a picture of a cropped dog say anything about the trauma a dog went through during tail docking or cropping?
Some people posted an image of their dogs taken many months or years after the procedure had been performed, arguing that their dog “didn’t look unhappy” or abused. I wonder how such pictures can be good indicators of whether a dog was distressed or in pain after the procedure?
However, working with dogs for 30 plus years has allowed me to see that the posted images of ear cropped dogs all had something in common. These dogs looked withdrawn and they were missing the spark we see in a happy dog.
Ironically people also posted images of dogs with bandaged ears, suggesting there was nothing wrong with them. Have a look at the posted images, and judge for yourself.
A few final words
I do not think that people who choose to crop their dogs ears do not love their dogs. These people are just unaware of the fact that ear cropping causes harm on many levels, besides being painful.
Ears have many important acupuncture meridians that are connected and affect the health of many internal organs, similar to human ears. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why dogs with cropped ears (such as boxers) have higher rates of cancer and chronic disease than most other breeds.
As I am writing this post, I am starting to realize that this article could go on and on. I am fully aware that the debate is not over, but similar to any progress, such as the end of slavery, or gender and racial equality, an ear cropping ban across the whole nation is inevitable and I am very optimistic.
Yes, we will have to put up with some nastiness and anger, but when we know that the origin of such behaviour is fear of wrong doing to those dogs pro-croppers love, the aggression is easier to handle.
Ear cropping and tail docking is one of the issues we should not be nice about. We need to be direct and talk to pro-croppers in a gentle but clear way.
- Ear cropping hurts
- Ear cropping is unnecessary
- It has no purpose
If you run into anger and resistance, you can make a suggestion one of our Facebook community members provided: If they love ear cropping much, perhaps they should get their ears cropped Mr. Spock style.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM