Docking and cropping not to be allowed!

“Docking of tails and cropping of ears for pups are already banned long time back in many developed

dog health

Dr R Jayaprakash

European countries. Cropping of ear is a highly painful procedure (3rd degree pain) which requires deep anaesthesia and effective prolong post operative analgesia (pain killer). In India, this procedure is mostly being carried out by unauthorised personnel who use mild sedation for the procedure. Docking of tail is mostly performed in infant puppy (within one week) neither with anaesthesia nor with analgesia and sometime they use rubber band (highly cruel) for this procedure. The decision taken by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is appreciated. The decision will be effective provided it should be accepted and implemented by kennel clubs/societies.”
Dr R Jayaprakash, MVSc, PhD (Surgery), JP Pet Specialty Hospital, Chennai

“In my opinion, docking and cropping are not a crime. In our area, people are doing dehorning for Umbalacheri breed cattle since the horns are irregular and injure other cattle when they graze in group (when there is a fight). Even now group grazing is in practice in Tanjore district. Like that there may be some reason for docking. Cropped dogs look elegant and majestic and the purpose of ear flap is not abolished. Even after cropping, the dog responds for flies and external influences. It is only the cartilage which is being cropped and cropping is always done under general anaesthesia without any cruelty to dogs. Since the tail wagging is a sign of showing love and affection I am not for docking in all dogs, except when it is really required.”
Dr B Nagarajan, PhD, Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai

“Personally I would wholeheartedly welcome the ban. Cosmetic procedures are purely an invention of man for his entertainment and nothing more. On the contrary these procedures do harm these poor little ones. The tail is meant for swatting flies. In the absence of the tail, flies keep infecting the genitalia which later on lead to ascending infection of the reproductive tract. Similarly, an ear infection can happen due to ear cropping.”
Dr A P Nambi, PhD, Department of Medicine, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai

“This is a landmark decision and was long overdue. Nations over the world are putting a ban on this archaic and barbaric tradition. Dogs have the right to have their ears and tails as much as we humans need our fingers and toes. People were blindly following this tradition with all kinds of unfounded beliefs. The real reason behind docking and cropping were first followed are still ambiguous, as you will receive not less than 10 different reasons for each! I have stopped this practice nearly six years ago. Vets should now display a board that this procedure is no longer practiced by them just as doctors display boards about foetal sex determination.”
Dr Lakshmi Ramana Rao, The Animal Care Clinic, Hyderabad

Ear cropping and tail docking for cosmetic reasons are of no medical benefit to the animal even though some vets and breeders claim that it prevents ear infection, increases ventilation of the ears and keeps the ear clean. A simple and less painful way of achieving the same result is ear cleaning, a grooming procedure that pet parent has to do regularly. The recent notice by the Animal Welfare Board of India stated that such cruel procedures could entail prosecution, which has been welcomed by vets across the country as well.

Ear cropping and tail docking are serious and unnecessary evils of veterinary practice. I hated performing this procedure, so I used to kid myself and leave the tail stump a couple of vertebrae longer while docking. I always refused to perform ear cropping by principle, as I didn’t see the need to remember that human beings can opt for or out of cosmetic surgery but the dog’s decision is made by the pet parent. The animal does not care how it looks…he only wants love and care.

So, I was overjoyed when I read the notice posted by the Chairperson of the Animal Welfare Board of India (a statutory body under the act of parliament) in The Times of India dated September 8, 2011. It stated that such cruel procedures could entail prosecution. I made sure that this notice was read out to all veterinarians present at our continuing education programme of the Pet Practitioners of Mumbai in early October 2011. Unfortunately, some vets are still in the dark about this notice.

Woes of tail docking…

Historically, tail docking was encouraged as it was thought to prevent rabies, increase the animals speed and prevent injuries when ratting, fighting and baiting in early Georgian times in the United Kingdom. In fact, a tax was levied upon working dogs with tails. So many types of dogs were docked to avoid this tax. This tax was repealed in 1796 but the practice persisted for cosmetic reasons.

In modern times, tail docking was done for prophylactic, therapeutic or cosmetic purposes on working and field dogs such as herding and hunting dogs. This was because they collected burrs fox tails on their tails while wagging or could be subject to abrasion or injuries, while moving through dense brush or thickets. Some dogs with furry tails could collect faeces on their hair and therefore suffer problems due to lack of hygiene.

It is important to remember that dogs need their tails for a variety of purposes. They are used to communicate fear, caution, aggression, playfulness and other emotions. Certain breeds use their tails as rudders while swimming and possible for balance while running. Why deprive any dog of these powers? My own Doberman Mishka, who is now two years old, exhibits a phantom pain in her tail area even today. Sadly, some vets see nothing wrong in carrying out these procedures, if the owner is willing to pay for it.

Woes of ear cropping…

Ear cropping is another painful and disfiguring process for dogs. It is a senseless surgery. Some breeders think ear cropping helps in successful competing in the show ring, which is totally untrue in today’s time. Some animal behaviourists claim that dogs with cropped ears suffer from faint uneasiness, peculiar phantom pain around the scar for a long time or even lifelong and may develop behavioural problems.

The procedure…

Docking of puppies is done routinely by both breeders and vets when the puppies are less than 10 days old without proper anaesthesia and in today’s times is only done for aesthetic reasons. For ear cropping the pups are put under anaesthesia and 2/3rd of the ear flap including many nerve endings are removed. Many breeders claim that this does not hurt the puppy, which is untrue, as the pup cries in pain if he bumps or scratches the ear. After the stitches are removed, the pup has to go through 2 to 3 months of ear taping and if the procedure is not successful, the surgery is repeated or the dog is stuck with ugly cropped ears.

The awareness…

All veterinarians should be compassionate and object to arbitrary removal of body parts of animals that are used for expression and communication with each other and their human companions. These procedures have been banned in many countries like the United States, Canada, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia, England, Finland, Greece, Iceland, New Zealand, etc. And the recent ban in India is a welcome move!

(Dr Sunita Patel, MVSc (Surgery) is Trustee and Honorary Surgeon for All India Animal Welfare Association and President-Pet Practitioners Association of Mumbai)

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