Dog ear cropping

Ear cropping (or docking) is an entirely unnecessary surgical procedure in which a dog's ears are removed or altered. It has no benefits for the dog and can cause permanent damage.

Ear cropping is illegal in the UK

Ear cropping is illegal in England and Wales, under Section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, the practice is still legal in other parts of the world, such as the USA and Russia. There's a fear that more and more dogs are being sent abroad for cropping, or being purchased and imported from overseas having already had the painful procedure. 

It's currently not illegal to import a dog with cropped ears from another country. We're supporting a campaign to close this loophole and are calling on the Government to ban the importation of cropped dogs. 

Why people believe ear cropping is good

Those who support the practice claim ear cropping can prevent ear infections and avoid sustaining injuries from other animals or dogs. However, this is completely untrue. Cropping does not benefit the dog in any way and can actually be detrimental to their health, behaviour and welfare.

The procedure is usually carried out for purely aesthetic or cosmetic reasons often because the owner wants to achieve a particular 'look'. Some owners believe cropped ears make the dog look tougher or more intimidating, but the process can have the completely opposite effect on their temperament and can make them anxious and nervous around people and other animals.

How ear cropping is performed

Ear cropping is generally done on puppies between six and 12 weeks. It's increasingly popular in certain breeds and types of dogs - including cane corsos and American bullies, where part or all of the entire ear flap is commonly removed. This can be extremely traumatic for the puppy and cause permanent damage.

In some countries, cropped ears are considered a breed standard for some bull-breeds. Other breeds, such as Dobermans, have their ears cropped and splinted.

Taping and splintering ears

The fashion for taping or splinting promotes a false aesthetic where dogs' ears look permanently alert and therefore more 'attractive'. A dog's ears are taped to a cardboard or wood splint to encourage growth upright instead of the ears flopping over.

There is no evidence of any benefit to performing cropping or taping of dogs' ears unless for medical reasons. 

Ear cropping can be very painful for dogs

close-up of a dog's bloodied cropped ear © RSPCAAs with any surgery, there are risks and ear cropping is an incredibly painful procedure for the dog. This is especially true if carried out as a 'DIY' procedure without prescribed anaesthetic or pain relief. The wounds can take a long time to heal, need a lot of aftercare (such as changing dressings and cleaning) and can become infected easily. 

Eton's story

Neapolitan mastiff cross Eton has been scarred for life by the experience of having his ears cropped. He was one of two puppies from a litter of eight who had their ears cropped before being seized by police and placed in our care.

His ears were inflamed, painful and infected. Investigators believe his ears had been cropped using scissors or a sharp blade without pain relief or veterinary care.

RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre manager Anna White said:

This awful procedure has ruined Eton's life I don't think he'll ever fully recover.

When the case had concluded, Eton and his siblings were free to find new homes. Anna's decision to adopt Eton was based on the understanding that he posed huge challenges for any new owner. It would be extremely difficult to find a home that could cope with the impact cropping has had on Eton.

Now, Eton lives with Anna and her family. He's incredibly head shy and is terrified if you make a sudden movement near his head. He also struggles to communicate and socialise with people and with other dogs, having lost one of his key communication tools.

Why ear cropping is so popular

We fear that celebrity culture, images shared on social media - especially from abroad where the practice is unregulated and legal - and an increase in bull breeds seen in advertising is normalising the look and making it more popular.

People in the public eye are endorsing this procedure by sharing pictures of their cropped dogs and, even if unknowingly, normalising and glamorising the look. They need to take responsibility and set a good example to their fans, promote responsible dog ownership and champion good animal welfare.

New figures released in February 2022, show a 621% increase in the number of reports of ear cropping and cropped ears raised with us in the last six years. From 2015 to 2020, we had a total of 279 reports of the practice made to our emergency hotline.

Let us know if you suspect ear cropping

If you suspect someone is illegally cropping their dogs' ears or arranging for their dogs to have their ears cropped, please report your concerns to our hotline, calling 0300 1234 999. We will always look into reports and will investigate if there is evidence that the law has been broken.

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