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Animal Humane Society position on canine elective and cosmetic surgical procedures

Every year, tens of thousands of dogs and puppies undergo unnecessary cosmetic/elective surgical procedures such as tail docking, ear cropping, and devocalization (debarking).

Animal Humane Society opposes surgical procedures when performed for purely cosmetic or convenience reasons, that provide no health benefit to the dog, and subject the animal to unnecessary pain or health risks.

Tail docking refers to the amputation of all or part of an animal’s tail utilizing a cutting or crushing instrument. A dog’s tail is comprised of muscles, tendons, nerves, cartilage and bone — all of which are severed during a docking procedure.

Ear cropping refers to the practice of reshaping a dog’s ears by surgically removing the pinna, or floppy part of the ear. Approximately one half of the ear is removed in a cropping procedure.   

Devocalization (debarking or bark softening) is a surgical procedure that removes tissue from the vocal cords and permanently reduces the volume of vocalization. Chronic or excessive barking in dogs may be caused by improper socialization, stress, boredom, fear or frustration. Surgery stops the barking, but does not address the cause of the barking and subjects the dog to potential health risks (i.e. aspiration pneumonia).

Devocalization is not appropriate as a quick fix. While no dog can be trained to stop barking completely, most dogs can be trained to reduce barking through behavioral modification after owners understand the reason for the excessive barking.

Most of the tail docking and ear cropping procedures are done solely for cosmetic reasons and/or to adhere to breed standards.  Accordingly, Animal Humane Society encourages the elimination of docking and cropping from breed standards.