Quebec Forbids Cosmetic Veterinary Procedures

Ban on ear cropping and tail docking goes into effect in 2017.

Doberman pinschers are born with floppy ears, left, but cropping is done to make them stand upright.

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Cosmetic tail docking and ear cropping will be banned in Quebec starting in 2017, leaving Alberta and Ontario as the only Canadian provinces to permit the surgical procedures on dogs and cats.

Quebec veterinary regulators also extended the tail-shortening protection to horses and cattle.

British Columbia banned canine ear cropping last fall, but whether its move and Quebec’s will lead to a nationwide prohibition on cosmetic procedures is uncertain.

The 4,400-member Ontario Veterinary Medical Association stated that it opposes cosmetic surgery but that the province’s regulatory body, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, has not raised the issue since 2012. A meeting then involving pet breeders and OVMA “was unable to come to a consensus because it involved altering breed standards, and by 2013 CVO halted the process,” the organization reported.

CVO will address the topic again in March.

“The council of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario thoroughly examined medically unnecessary veterinary surgery, commonly known as cosmetic surgery, in 2011 and developed and published its current guidelines in 2012,” CVO stated. 

“The council is actively engaged in monitoring trends in animal welfare and risks to animal health in relation to the practice of veterinary medicine. Recent discussion in the media and the actions of our colleagues in Quebec will be brought to the attention of the college council at its March meeting to determine its interest in reviewing its current position on cosmetic surgery.”

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, which regulates the province’s practitioners, stated that it opposes cosmetic alterations but that the procedures remain popular because of breeders and pet owners.

“Cosmetic surgery, specifically ear cropping and tail docking, are performed on dogs to meet the breed standards of certain breed associations,” the organization stated. “These procedures continue to be performed due to societal demand for altered dogs that meet the breed standards.”

The Alberta VMA has asked the Canadian Kennel Club to recognize uncropped and undocked dogs. The canine group, however, stated that the responsibility for breed standards rests elsewhere.

“The content of each breed standard has always been in the control of the breed clubs,” the Canadian Kennel Club states on its website. “In the absence of a national club, regional clubs or breeders control the content of their breed standards.”

Veterinarians have the medical expertise to perform cosmetic alterations safely and provide appropriate pain control, the Alberta VMA stated.

“Prohibiting veterinarians from undertaking cosmetic surgery procedures at a time when society still demands that these procedures be performed carries the risk that the procedures will be performed by untrained individuals with inappropriate pain control, which will result in animal welfare issues,” the organization noted.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association issued a statement that it agreed with Quebec’s decision and that the ban “is consistent with CVMA’s long-standing positions on matters of animal welfare.”

The policy approved by the Quebec veterinary group, known as OMVQ, stated that tail docking and ear cropping do not improve an animal’s health, carry avoidable medical risks and should be conducted only when medically necessary.

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