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AVMA Revises Policy On Ear Cropping And Tail Docking

May 15, 2017

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board voted to strengthen association policy on two practices common in certain breeds of dogs-ear cropping and tail docking.

The revised AVMA policy states: "The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards."

"For many years the AVMA has acknowledged that ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes are not medically indicated nor of benefit to our canine patients," explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. "Our latest policy revision doesn't represent a change in perspective, but, rather, makes that perspective clear with a stronger statement."

The AVMA decided to adjust its policy on tail docking and ear cropping after a scheduled review of an existing policy. The review included an analysis of scientific literature and available data, an assessment of the practical experience of veterinarians, and deliberations by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.

"Why we perform certain procedures is one of the first questions we ask. Once that question is answered, committee members look at any associated welfare concerns," explains Dr. Gail Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. "'Cosmetic' implies the basis for these procedures is to alter the dog's appearance. Welfare risks identified included those associated with surgical procedures, i.e., anesthetic complications, pain, blood loss and infection. In the committee's opinion, the risk-benefit analysis supports professional opposition to performing these procedures for purely cosmetic reasons."

In recommending policy revisions, the committee was careful to distinguish ear cropping and tail docking performed for cosmetic reasons from procedures performed for therapeutic or preventive purposes. "If it can be responsibly demonstrated that the purpose of performing the procedure is to protect the health and welfare of the dog, then of course the Association would support the appropriate surgery," said Dr. DeHaven.

For more information on this or other AVMA policies, please visit avma.

The AVMA and its more than 76,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at avma for more information.

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