To crop the ears or let them flop is new debate by show-dog fans

PETS AT HOME

October 10, 1992|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

My veterinarian doesn't do ear crops. He doesn't even know how to perform the surgery and has absolutely no interest in learning.

There are a lot of vets like him, so many that the American Veterinary Medical Association now supports the banning of dogs with cropped ears from the show ring, holding that the surgery is purely cosmetic.

Some breeders disagree, arguing that ear-cropping is preventive medicine, reducing the ear infections common to some floppy-eared dogs. At a recent delegates meeting of the American Kennel Club, a representative of the American Bouvier des Flandres Club commented on the benefits of the surgery:

"A number of veterinarians comment on the improved temperament of long-eared breeds once chronic ear infections are managed," said Jeannette Niedler. "What causes more pain, a surgical procedure under anesthetic performed by a competent, caring veterinarian who chooses to perform such surgery, or lifelong scratching and head-shaking from chronic ear problems?"

She also noted that the AKC has mentioned an increase in letters and phone calls regarding ear cropping, and hinted that some "organized effort" is to blame.

I've never been accused of being "organized" in my life, but I for one have never seen the point in ear cropping -- even though I grew up in a boxer-loving household alongside cropped dogs. I wish those who advocate it would be honest about why they continue to push the procedure -- they like the look of cropped ears. Not all show breeders agree, but those who prefer "natural" ears are in a bind: If they want to win in the show ring, they've got to crop.

Because of this dedication to "style," those who'll never show their dogs pop for the crop because they think it's "normal" and their dogs would look funny otherwise. But if all cropping stopped tomorrow, people would start to think of natural ears as normal, the way they do in those countries that have banned the procedure as cruel.

To put forth the "health" argument is to ignore the presence of hundreds of thousands of healthy dogs in those countries. And in this country, if the best treatment for chronic ear infections was hacking up the outer ear and taping what's left to a rack, there would hardly be a cocker spaniel or poodle left with floppy ones.

Change is always difficult for some people. But it's time for this country to abandon a practice that started when dog-fighting and bull-baiting were as common as baseball games are today.

Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278

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