Why the cropped ear trend must end

03 DECEMBER 2021

Celebrities and social media platforms are helping to spread an unwelcome trend: dogs with cropped ears. Ear cropping has been illegal in the UK since 2006, when the Animal Welfare Act banned the mutilation of dogs except for strict medical exceptions. So, why is it back and how can it be stopped?

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What is ear cropping?

Ear cropping is where a dog’s outer ears are either removed or reshaped surgically. It is a painful process that has no health or welfare benefit, and with long-term negative impacts for the dog. Dogs use their ears to communicate with us and with other dogs. Taking away their ability to express themselves through an agonising procedure is senseless and cruel.

How widespread is it?

There’s been a sharp increase in celebrities and influencers sharing pictures of dogs with cropped ears across social media over the past few years and this is trickling down to the public at large. The RSPCA saw a 236% increase in reports of ear cropping from 2015 to 2019.

At Battersea, dogs and cats often come to us after they are relinquished by their owners, so the trends we see tend to be a few years behind general trends in dog and cat ownership. Nevertheless, we are also seeing an increase, from one dog with cropped ears coming into our care in 2015, to 12 dogs with cropped ears in 2020. This is despite us caring for fewer dogs in 2020 compared to 2015 due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

But isn’t ear-cropping illegal?

At present, owners of dogs with cropped ears can use a loophole to get around the ban on ear cropping. They may claim that the procedure was done outside the UK and the dog was then imported, meaning that the mutilation was done outside the reach of UK law.

However, it is unlikely that every dog with cropped ears has been imported. Many will have been illegally mutilated within the UK but, while it remains legal to import dogs with cropped ears, this can be used as a cover.

How do we stop it?

The Kept Animals Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament, would allow each country in the UK to make laws that would ban the import of dogs with cropped ears. There are moves from some politicians to go even further.

At a Parliamentary Committee to review the Bill, Battersea addressed MPs on the issue, supporting a ban on importing dogs with cropped ears. We will continue to push for further restrictions on ear cropping as the Bill makes progress through Parliament.

We will be monitoring changes to the Bill as it continues its passage through Parliament, to ensure that this concerning trend is highlighted and that measures are taken to clamp down on the sale and importation of ear-cropped dogs.

You can show your support for the campaign to end ear cropping by tweeting #EndTheTrend and #CutTheCrop. Find out more by following our Public Affairs team on Twitter or reading about Battersea’s views and priorities within the Kept Animals Bill.

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