AVMA denounces ear cropping and tail docking for cosmetic purposes

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Nov 26, 2008
By dvm360.com staff
Schaumburg, Ill. -- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is opposed to ear cropping and tail docking, according to a released statement today.

The association adjusted its policy following a report by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, which included an analysis of scientific literature and available data and an assessment of the practical experience of veterinarians.

"Why we perform certain procedures is one of the first questions we ask," explains Dr. Gail Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. "Once that question is answered, committee members look at any associated welfare concerns. 'Cosmetic' implies the basis for these procedures is to alter the dog's appearance. Welfare risks identified included those associated with surgical procedures, i.e., anesthetic complications, pain, blood loss and infection. In the committee's opinion, the risk-benefit analysis supports professional opposition to performing these procedures for purely cosmetic reasons."

The American Kennel Club (AKC) was disappointed about being excluded from discussions on the issue, but maintains its stance.

"We recognize ear cropping and tail docking, as prescribed in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character, enhancing good health, and preventing injuries," according to the AKC. "These breed characteristics are procedures performed to insure the safety of dogs that on a daily basis perform heroic roles with Homeland Security, serve in the U.S. Military and at police departments protecting tens of thousands of communities throughout our nation as well as competing in the field. Mislabeling these procedures as "cosmetic" is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history and the function of purebred dogs."

Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA, says the policy revision isn't a change in perspective, just a stronger statement of that perspective.

"For many years the AVMA has acknowledged that ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes are not medically indicated nor of benefit to our canine patients," DeHaven explains. "If it can be responsibly demonstrated that the purpose of performing the procedure is to protect the health and welfare of the dog, then of course the association would support the appropriate surgery."

The official position reads: "The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards."