Veterinary regulators in British Columbia, Canada, this week banned practitioners from performing cosmetic ear cropping on dogs, a controversial surgical procedure that has been outlawed in some countries.
The policy change brings the province in line with Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.
“Ear cropping is an unnecessary procedure unless carried out in cases of injury or for reasons of health concerns,” said Larry Odegard, the CEO and registrar at the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, which oversees the province’s more than 1,600 practitioners.
Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, allows ear cropping, which traditionally has been performed on purebreds such as boxers, Dobermans and great Danes. The College of Veterinarians of Ontario has not banned the procedure despite the 4,400-member Ontario Veterinary Medical Association’s position that cosmetic surgery is unnecessary and that breed associations should change their standards, OVMA spokeswoman Melissa Carlaw said.
British Columbia veterinarians who defy the ear cropping ban will face disciplinary action on charges of unethical practice of veterinary medicine, the college reported.
“The province’s 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 organization stated.
Many dog breeders, owners and organizations endorse cosmetic procedures. An American Kennel Club policy states: “Ear cropping, tail docking and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided.”
The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia acknowledged that unaltered purebred dogs could be barred from breed competitions.
“However, this is changing,” the organization stated. “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.”
Scientific evidence doesn’t support “a welfare or medical benefit for ear cropping,” the regulatory body noted, “but evidence does show a detrimental effect on behavior and canine communication.”
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) approves of ear cropping only “to alleviate suffering or for reasons of welfare,” CEO Craig Daniell said.
“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 behaviors,” Daniell said.
Ear cropping is regulated in parts of the United States. Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington State impose certain restrictions, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
An AVMA policy statement opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs “when done solely for cosmetic purposes” and encourages that the procedures be eliminated from breed standards.
Ear cropping is prohibited in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe, according to the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia.