Ear Cropping

Written by Eleanor Fallows MRCVS
January 19, 2023

Ear Cropping is a procedure whereby a part of a dog’s ear flap is removed. This is done in order to change the shape of their ear. This is done for cosmetic reasons only, with no benefits to the dog. In the UK, this procedure is illegal. Unfortunately there has been an increase in cases seen recently. This is probably due to an increase in celebrities and influencers sharing photos of their ear-cropped dogs on social media.  

Ear Cropping is a painful process, usually carried out on young dogs. Their ear flaps are either completely or partially removed. In some breeds, the ears are then taped to splints to encourage them to heal in an upright position.  In the UK, ear cropping is classed as an illegal mutilation. It is banned in England and Wales, under Section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Ear cropping is still legally allowed in some other countries, including the USA. It is even included in some of the breed standards for these countries. There has been a recent push by the British Veterinary Association and the RSPCA, and many other animal welfare charities, to improve the legislation surrounding ear cropping. They also wish to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears. This will help to reduce the number of cases seen in the UK. It will also make it easier to police illegal ear cropping going on in this country. 

Why do people crop their dog’s ears? 

This practice first became popular in dog fighting circles. It is used as a way to stop dogs from grabbing each other’s ears. It is also used to stop dogs from using their ears to show submission. Some people do it as they feel that it makes their dogs look tougher and more intimidating to others. Added to this, celebrities and influencers have started to buy these dogs as trained “protection dogs”, which has begun to glamorise this trend. In some countries (including the USA) the procedure is done routinely to certain breeds. It has become a part of the breed standard. Many vets are against this. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and Australian Veterinary Association are all opposed to ear cropping for cosmetic reasons.

What is the problem with ear cropping? 

Ear Cropping is painful 

The pinna or ear flaps are a very sensitive part of the body, so cutting them is extremely painful. When it is done illegally, it will be carried out by an untrained person, who is unlikely to have access to pain relief, anaesthetic drugs, or the proper equipment. Depending on the breed, some dogs have their ears completely removed, whilst others will have the remaining part of the ear splinted. This forces it to heal in an upright position, but requires the ears to be held in this position for 2-4 months.  

Ear cropping has no proven health benefits

Whilst some people claim that ear cropping can prevent ear infections, there is no evidence to suggest this is true. Ear cropping is an entirely cosmetic procedure.  

It may cause emotional trauma 

Ear cropping is generally carried out on young puppies, often only 2-3 months old. Not only are they put through a lot of pain at such a young age, but they are also likely to miss out on important socialisation with other dogs whilst there ears are allowed to heal.  

It limits how a dog is able to communicate

A dog’s ears are an important part of how they communicate, both with other dogs and with people. They rely on body language entirely. If dogs are unable to fully express themselves it can lead to them becoming aggressive, or getting into difficult situations with other dogs 

It may affect hearing 

A dog will move their ears to help them locate and interpret sounds in the world around them. Although it is impossible to quantify the effect that removing or mutilating the ears may have, most experts agree that it is possible it will cause some damage to their hearing. 

What is being done in the UK? 

It is illegal to crop a dog’s ears in the UK. However, it is currently still legal to import and sell dogs with cropped ears. It is also not a specific offence to send dogs abroad to have their ears cropped. This makes it very difficult to track down any illegal ear cropping happening in the UK. There is a large movement to improve the legislation around this practice led by the British Veterinary Association. Many other animal welfare trusts are also supporting them in their campaign to #CutTheCrop. For more information about their campaign, see the BVA, PDSA and RSPCA links below. 

There has been an alarming increase in the number of cases of dog ear cropping seen in the UK in recent years. It is important to be aware of this practice. Not only is it illegal, but it is a painful and entirely unnecessary procedure. Ear cropping is only done for the benefit of the dog owner. With an increase in popularity among the rich and famous, vets in the UK are acting to try and educate the public about the realities of the procedure. If you are aware of any cases of ear cropping, they can be reported in the following ways. 

  • England and Wales (call the RSPCA at 0300 1234 999) 
  • Scotland (call the Scottish SPCA at 0300 0999 999) 
  • Northern Ireland (contact your local council Animal Welfare Officer

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