Pups Paying Painfully High Price For People Copying Cruel Cosmetic Trend

21 Mar 2023

Battersea is warning of a worrying increase in the number of dogs having their appearance altered through the painful and illegal practice of ear cropping. The charity believes social media, influencers and possibly even the normalisation of cosmetic procedures are all to blame.

The leading animal charity surveyed 2,000 people to gauge public awareness of ear cropping. The findings suggest that social media plays a key role in exposing people to images of dogs with cropped ears and making it the norm, particularly to younger audiences. Gen Z were significantly more likely to report seeing dogs with cropped ears online, with over a third of 18–29-year-olds surveyed saying they see images of them – more than double the amount of 40–55-year-olds who had reported ever seeing any dogs with mutilated ears online.

In addition to being the group most likely to see images of these dogs on social media, Gen Z, along with millennials, were also much more likely than those aged 40 and over to say they were not against ear cropping. The charity was shocked when more than a fifth of all 18- to 39-year-olds they spoke to said they were ‘very’ or ‘quite’ comfortable with the idea – even after being told details of what the procedure was.

Battersea believes that a current lack of awareness around what the practice entails and its illegal status are the problem. More than half of the charity’s survey respondents were unaware ear cropping was illegal in the UK. A worrying 81 per cent of all people were unable to pick out which dogs had had their appearance surgically altered [1].

Milo was just six months old when he was brought to Battersea’s London centre. Not only had the young Doberman clearly had his ears cropped, he was also continuing to suffer as a result of the procedure. The charity’s veterinary team were shocked to discover that whoever had mutilated Milo had used everyday cotton thread rather than surgical stitches to sew his wounded ears closed and had neglected to ever remove the stitches, leading to his unclean skin healing over the thread. Someone had also docked his tail – another illegal practice in this country. Thankfully Battersea’s vets were able to repair the damage and make sure Milo was happy and healthy before he went to a new loving home.

Battersea’s Rehoming & Welfare Manager, Sarah Hughes, said: “Every time a dog with butchered ears comes through our gates, my heart breaks a little more. Despite it having been illegal to crop a dog’s ears for many years, that doesn’t seem to be stopping people from finding a way to still do it. We’re seeing an increasing number of dogs who’ve endured the barbaric procedure being brought to us – many of which are strays with microchips from other countries, so we suspect they’ve been imported into the UK before being sold or abandoned, all of which is still shockingly legal.”

While the act of cropping a dog’s ears is against the law under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, there is currently no law against bringing a dog with cropped ears into the UK from countries where the cruel practice is still legal. Unethical breeders are taking advantage of this legal loophole to keep supplying demand for these suffering dogs. Proposed new legislation under the Kept Animal Bill would ban the importation of any dog with cropped ears and spare further dogs’ any pain, as well as offer a series of other animal welfare protections.

Unfortunately, the Bill has been languishing within the Parliamentary process despite ongoing campaigning efforts from Battersea and other charities, with the legislation last being debated in November 2021. Battersea is now asking supporters to email the Prime Minister to get this Bill across the finish line and save thousands of animals from suffering.

Two imported dogs believed to have suffered while the Kept Animal Bill continues to stall are Luna and Barry. Luna arrived at Battersea as an underweight stray with a Hungarian microchip and her tail docked and one ear very badly cropped, but the other still intact. Staff suspect whoever performed the procedure realised they’d made an error and stopped halfway through. Meanwhile Barry was found on the street and had a Bulgarian microchip, a face covered in scars and ears so cropped there was barely any flesh left. Fortunately, both dogs received all of the love and expert care they needed to help them on the road to recovery after their ordeal and Battersea found them both lovely new homes.

While many dogs with cropped ears are imported into the country after the procedure, it is highly likely that other dogs are secretly suffering in the UK, with sellers and owners lying about the dog’s country of origin. Last year Battersea took in a nervous dog named Yennefer who had a docked tail and very badly cropped ears. Staff were able to trace her previous owners, who claimed everything was legal and above board as she had been imported, but they were unable to offer any proof, leaving staff to believe they were using the loophole in the law to lie and cover their tracks.

Sarah added: “We know that there are millions of people across the country who share Battersea’s belief that no animal should ever be harmed, and we urge these people to join us in calling for the Government to act now to close the import loophole and prevent any more dogs from suffering.”

To find out more about Battersea’s current campaign calling on the Government to pass the Kept Animal Bill and close the loophole on importing dogs with cropped ears, visit the Battersea website or click here to write to the Prime Minister.

Notes to editors  

  • Battersea’s survey was carried out by Opinium on a nationally representative sample of 2,000 people in the UK.
  • 2023 research from the University of Liverpool’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network found that almost two thirds of dogs with cropped ears treated by vets in the UK had evidence of importation and it was thought likely that most of the cropping took place before the dogs were brought to the UK.
  • At Battersea we offer our love and expert care to dogs and cats who need us by rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals at our centres, and by sharing our knowledge and resources with rescue organisations around the world. We do this because we want to help every dog and cat, everywhere.  
  • In 2022 Battersea directly cared for 2,278 dogs and 2,253 cats at our three centres. We also helped thousands more through our Communities programme, campaigning work, supporting other rescue centres and animal welfare advocates, and sharing knowledge and advice with pet owners. 
  • We’re reliant on the generosity of the public to continue to fund our vital work helping dogs and cats and the people who care for them. To donate to Battersea, visit: https://donate.battersea.org.uk  
  • In addition to the site in South West London, Battersea also has two other centres based at Old Windsor, Berkshire and Brands Hatch, Kent. 
  • To find out more visit our website or follow Battersea on Twitter @battersea_ , Instagram @battersea or facebook.com/Battersea