Monday, March 1, 2010

Dispatches from the Before Time

I recently jumped at an opportunity to acquire a well-worn, slightly water damaged, mildly smelly time capsule that has, however, miraculously retained all of its plates for 163 years.

The Dog, by William Youatt.

Mine is the 1847 American edition, edited and with additions by E.J. Lewis, M.D.

You don't have to save your pennies for an antiquarian keepsake to read it; it's available as a modern reprint, and online for free.

Mr. Youatt was a British veterinarian of wide renown who published on many species, but had a particular interest in, and love for, dogs.

He wrote this opus more than a decade before the first British dog show.

The overview of British dog breeds includes no reference to any "standards" or litany of "important" show winners and sires of show winners.

Yet there they were -- sheepdogs, cur dogs, lapdogs, esquimaux dogs, Newfoundlands and beagles, poodles and The Alpine Spaniel or Bernardine Dog.

Somehow human beings managed to develop and maintain distinct breeds without the authoritative oversight of a kennel club. No overlord to petition for, grant, or withhold permission!

Now one of the things that is explained to me from time to time is that all objections anyone has to anything on animal welfare grounds are a plot hatched last Tuesday by PeTA.

So I periodically learn, for example, that Ingrid Newkirk invented both the word puppymill and its imaginary business model some time in the 1990's. Nevermind that I can remember first encountering the term and the reality in a dog fancier magazine some years before I first encountered pubes.

One of the most adamant recurring lessons goes like this:

If I can't cut off my dog's ears and tail to suit my whimsy, then I don't really own him. They'll be coming to take him away any minute.

It is mandated in the Breed Standard because that is what is correct for the breed.

Having its roots in the Historic Vital Function Of The Breed and in The Inerrant Authority Of The Dead Breed Founders.

Only a whiny little dog-ignorant sentimental Bambi-loving vegan twinkie raises an objection to this practice, which is not cruel or painful at all.

Real Dogmen know that The Standard represents not only Knowledge Moste Anciente and Wyse, but the unanimous consensus of all the Founding Breedfathers and the Leading Men of The Day.

Men like Youatt, natch:

Cropping of the Ears. -- I had some doubt, whether I ought not to omit the mention of this cruel practice. Mr. Blaine very properly says, that "it is one that does not honour the inventor, for nature gives nothing in vain ... That must, therefore, be a false taste, that has taught us to prefer a curtailed organ to a perfect one, without gaining any convenience by the operation." He adds, and it is my only excuse for saying one word about the matter, that "custom being now fixed, directions are proper for its performance."

The owner of the dog commences with maiming him while a puppy. He finds fault with the ears that nature has given him, and they are rounded or cut into various shapes, according to his whim or caprice. It is a cruel operation. A great deal of pain is inflicted by it, and it is often a long time before the edge of the wound will heal: a fortnight or three weeks at least will elapse ere the animal is free from pain.


Mr. Blaine very naturally observes that, "it is not a little surprising that this cruel custom is so frequently, or almost invariably, practiced on pug dogs, whose ears, if left alone to nature, are particularly handsome and hang very gracefully. It is hardly to be conceived how the pug's head -- which is not naturally beautiful except in the eyes of a perverted taste -- is improved by suffering his ears to remain."
Ever see an ear-cropped pug?

Me neither. Add that to the list of things for which I am deeply thankful.

Guess that particular arm of custom was not entirely fixed. I don't know whether pinna amputation never made it into the sacred texts, or was later removed.

Lucky pugs. Left without a functioning respiratory system by mandate of their "standard" and those who serve it, they have at least been permitted to retain their ears.

Dobermans, schnauzers, pit bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers, Danes, miniature pinschers -- not so lucky.

A practice that would likely have faded away on its own accord in all but a few cases (fighting pit bulldogs, some LGDs) was codified, regularized, and made either mandatory or effectively so because kennel clubs and the dog fanciers' breed clubs were looking out for the "purity" and cosmetic uniformity of the gene pools they captured from the original landraces.

163 years after Youatt, is it too much to ask that fanciers of show dogs who do no work acknowledge the butt obvious truth that the leading dog vets of the mid-19th century could spot and name gratuitous cruelty grounded in idle vanity very well, thank you?

Or does Peter Singer have a secret time machine?


  1. It is mandated in the Breed Standard because that is what is correct for the breed.

    Post hoc, party of two, your table is ready.

  2. actually, from what I understand, with pit bulls, fighting dogs tend not to be cropped, or at least are not consistently cropped. It's the show dogs who tend to be cropped. There's an interesting comparison of what the different APBT registries are favoring in physical type here:

    You can see that while the ADBA winners (traditionally the registry with more "game-bred" dogs) have mostly natural ears, all the UKC APBTs and AKC AmStaffs have cropped ears (as discussed in that thread, the differences in body type favored by the different registries is also rather striking).

  3. Monkeypedia, that's fascinating.

    I had noticed that a lot of dogs I see photographed after fight busts have natural ears.

    I guess the ones that you see with so-called "fighting crops" that are complete pinna amputations dominate my consciousness, even if they aren't the rule.

    Like our late lamented Rocko.

    I wonder if the "fighting crop" isn't an affectation of wannabes?

    Come to think, I can't remember ever seeing a dog go for another dog's ears in a serious fight. A few ripped ears in dog-park scuffles, and yeah, they bleed like a sonafabitch, but not when the two dogs mean business.

  4. I'm conflicted about the crop/dock debate. I think it would be great if the breeds that want a stand-up ear would breed for it instead of surgically creating it (similarly, it's possible to breed for a natural bob-tail) But that would involve--gasp--outcrossing!!

    At the same time, I don't think it's necessarily fair to compare comments about 19th century cropping with what happens today with (most) dogs, where they are put under anesthesia and are cropped by a competent vet. Unnecessary? You bet. But painful or cruel? I don't know, I've never had a crop eared puppy around to see if it really bugs them any more than spay/neuter surgery.

    I don't mind the look of a natural-eared schnauzer or bouv. A hound-eared dobe kind of ruins the effect, but I think a rose-eared dobe is quite fetching. Of course, the more natural eared dobes I see, the less strange it looks to me.

    Tail docking bothers me less, for some reason, maybe because it's done so early and because there are more believable accounts of it preventing tail damage in short-coated dogs that perform certain kinds of work. I admit a bias, though, as I owned a docked breed (Airedale).

    It's true, from my recollection of perusing the Stratton books, that many game-tested pit bulls have natural ears. I do think the "fight crop" look is totally a wannabe phenomenon.

  5. I have what I think are 3 excellent arguments against cropping:
    1. It's unnatural and unnecessary. (Spare me the "ear infections" line - if the only kind of dog you can produce is one whose quality of life is significantly reduced because of bad ears, you shouldn't be breeding)

    2. It's painful for the dogs.

    3. It causes other dogs to misread the cropped dog's body language because the ear/tail movements are inhibited. Fights may result.

  6. If ear cropping fixes ear infections, then why aren't all cocker spaniels and golden retrievers cropped?

  7. Pugs were cropped because they were (erroneously) believed to be a type of mastiff.

    They were called Dutch mastiffs, because the Dutch loved them so much. The House of Orange owed its survival to a barking pug (so the story goes), and when William Henry, Prince of Orange, invaded England (from the Devon coast) and became William III, pugs became very popular in England.

    And they cropped the ears of their little "Dutch mastiffs." Never mind that the dogs came from China, and first arrived in Portugal and then Spain. The Spanish crown controlled the Netherlands, so that's how the dogs were introduced to the Dutch.

  8. Tail docking and dewclaw removal don't bother me, especially if a big part of the tail is left on. The way HPR's are docked doesn't bother me at all!

    Ear cropping really does.

    I do agree that leaving just a stub of a tail is a problem when the dogs communicate. Extreme tail docking also predisposes the dogs to sacral arthritis.

    However, if a dog has 1/2 to 2/3 of its tail it can communicate just as well as a pug or a bulldog, which have even shorter natural tails.

    If I had an HPR, I'd want it docked. The risk of the dog damaging its tail is significant.

    English pointers hurt their tails all the time.

  9. Playing devil's advocate here.

    That it's "unnecessary and unnatural" and "painful" make ear cropping appear no morally different from spay/neuter.

    If that bothers you, then you need to make another distinction.

    The story about it interfering with body language only makes sense to me if we're talking about a "fight crop" and a bob-tail. The kind of crop that dobes, giants, danes, etc get still allows them to flatten their ears and is no different in terms of function than a prick eared dog. As for the bob-tail, again, I'd remind someone that not all docks take off the whole tail. Some leave quite a lot of tail, plenty enough to communicate with.

    I would also want to see some studies on whether this phenomenon is true. Breed temperament has to be taken into consideration (i.e. it perhaps should not be surprising that working breeds like dobes, giants, and rotties are more dog aggressive than corgis, poodles, or pugs with useless screw tails). It would only be meaningful if you compared a dog who had a tail, and then lost it for some reason, and whether his interactions with dogs changed. I just want to know whether this phenomenon has been studied, or is just anecdotal or logically deduced.

    I don't have an agenda here, like I've said, I would much rather see breeders figure out a way to BREED for prick ears or natural bob-tails than artificially create it. I just want to understand the issue.

    I think they did such an experiment with Boxers, crossing them with Corgis and then breeding back to Boxers. The resulting dog in a few generations was indistinguishable from a "purebred" Boxer but did not require tail docking.

    Also, to be fair, I think the ear infections line is trotted out as a beneficial SIDE EFFECT of cropping, but not the primary motivation. The primary motivation is obviously one of appearance--whether it's "traditional" or "imposing" or "apparently functional" (i.e. "fight crop"). You bet that drop eared dogs like labs and goldens are prone to ear infections--I spent four years working in a kennel with hundreds and hundreds of labs and goldens, and a few GSDs, and the GSDs rarely had ear infections, whereas the labs/goldens were constantly...constantly...getting them. It had a lot to do with the moisture in the kennel being "trapped" by the floppy ears, the mediocre food being fed (allergies), and genetics.

  10. Monkeypedia beat me to the punch. I'll second that in my experience ex-fighting dogs are not cropped; including the one in-residence here.

    The "fighting crop" is mostly a wannabe-thing or a senseless-cruelty-thing like BadRap's BooBoo (

    I would venture a guess that the occassional cropped dog you'll encounter in a yard a leftover from the transition between wannabe and fighter.

  11. I do agree that leaving just a stub of a tail is a problem when the dogs communicate. Extreme tail docking also predisposes the dogs to sacral arthritis

    I have not found my Australian Shepherds to be the victim of canine miscommunication due to their bobbed tails. It's "Body Language" not just "Tail Language" and I think dogs are able to interact based on the big picture.

    I have never heard of a case of sacral arthritis in the Australian Shepherd but will ask on our health list.

    Some breeders value the NBT of the Australian Shepherd and are working to preserve it in a non-surgical manner.

    Now if someone could show me a breed with a NCE gene . . .

  12. The Corgi/Boxer crosses are especially hilarious, because after these dogs were accepted by the British KC, the German boxer club, keeper of the standard that FCI uses, made a natural bob tail a disqualification. Because, you know, those dogs obviously aren't PURE. They've got a damned Corgi back in the woodpile. The hilarity comes in when you actually understand the genetics and realize that breeding a natural bobtail will not result in 100% bobtails. So, lots of docked Boxers out there with Corgi blood in them, but these aren't DQ'ed. And these people are the 'experts.' Excuse me while I giggle hysterically.

  13. I gotta say, for most of the breeds that are traditionally cropped and docked, I like the look, and as far as I can tell, it really ought to be the owner who gets to choose. I had a Miniature Schnauzer whose ears I fully intended to crop until he turned out to have absolutely adorable natural ears. If they'd been big *ss, houndy-looking things, they'd have been cropped. I had a full consultation with the vet and included a discussion of pain control prior to making the decision.

    I just can't love an uncropped Dobe. So shoot me.

    As to docking, I once fostered a Pit Bull with horrible "Happy Tail" that became necrotic and horribly painful for the dog despite attempts to treat it aggressively (and really raining on the poor dog's parade in the process) My vet and I laughed after surgery saying we'd morphed him into a Boxer.

    His demeanor, even having the procedure done as an adult, was unbelievably happier, from the minute he woke up from surgery. He was a different dog.

    Why can we lop off (or OUT!) reproductive organs but not ears or tails?

  14. Kali said...

    "That it's "unnecessary and unnatural" and "painful" make ear cropping appear no morally different from spay/neuter."

    I'm going to go with this for now.

    What's the difference between cosmetically altering a dog because "that's just how it's supposed to look" and undergoing unnecessary surgery that removes reproductive organs and seriously messes up hormone levels (especially if done before physical maturity) because "that's what responsible owners do"?

    Is this the lesser of two evils we're talking? Because when it comes down to it, I'll allow docking/cropping before I allow any future dog of mine to be altered, excluding certain circumstances on a case-by-case basis and any rescues. And no, that doesn't mean I'll have puppies coming out my ears or my dog will have cancer spewing from every orifice like what rescue organizations want me to believe.

    On communication, there is only 1 study that comes up testing dogs' reactions to different tail lengths, but the tail is attached to a "remote-controlled life-size [approx 50 cm @ shoulder] dog replica." It's an interesting read, especially their conclusions.

    Then again, their "robot" dog's tail was up VERY high on the back. I can easily see the wagging condition appearing as the usual stiff, extreme upright motion I sometimes see when two dogs meet. Wonder if that has anything to do with the results, since I too believe language is a whole-body thing and not just a tail-thing. Similar to how we can type online, talk on the phone and yet still convey a different message when conversing face to face.

    Nothing came up with docking and sacral arthritis. I've personally never known any docked dogs to have it, especially the ones I see in the field. I can't imagine those dogs running around blinds and hitting sleeves with that discomfort in their back end.

  15. Viatecio,

    I'm not sure if you misunderstood me, or if you were just elaborating on what I was saying, which was...

    If one objects to ear cropping because it's unnatural, unnecessary, and painful, then one must also object to spay/neuter. Unless there are other distinctions to be made, that have not been made yet.

    Off the top of my head, I *can* think of some medical reasons for spay/neuter, just as there are medical reasons to dock tails ("happy" tail as Eleanor mentioned), and I admit that there are dog owners out there that just have no interest in owning and managing an intact animal, like I am willing to--so I support their right to speuter, as tempting as it might be to stomp my feet as say, "Well, they shouldn't own a dog at all, then!" There are also people who have no interest in owning a Doberman with floppy ears and a long tail. It might be tempting to say, "Well, they shouldn't get a Dobe, then!"

    We can complain and bitch about their ethical laziness, or whatever. I don't know what else you can do besides that. We all make our own choices here. As long as the crop is done by a vet, I personally have no serious concerns about the pain, anymore than I have serious concerns about the pain after a spay/neuter... I think it's also probably not wrong to say that spay/neuter surgery carries a larger risk of death than a crop job (yes, I've known dogs who have bled out and died after a s/n--and these were competent, experienced vets)

    I happen to agree with you that spay/neuter is no small decision, and like you, I personally keep my animals intact as long as possible, because I believe it's healthier.

    But at least cropping and docking doesn't mess with a dog's hormones, growth, work ethic, and temperament. I'll give it that.

  16. I was elaborating. :) Didn't mean to sound like I was attacking. My apologies!

    Long live the freedom of choice and the responsibility we have towards our pets.

    I support spay/neuter, keeping intact dogs, natural ears/tails, and docking and cropping. All to different degrees, of course.

    On another note, I've always considered the term "Happy tail" to be extremely ironic. Or it could just be from the dogs I see spinning and spinning in their kennels and banging their tails up in the process. Happy tails do not result from kennel psychoses, but I'm sure they happen plenty of times that I can't think of.

  17. Sacral Arthritis Follow Up:

    This seemed to be the census from the EpiGENES list:

    Never heard of this, and it's probably something that has been initiated by individuals who are opposed to tail docking. And there really is no diagnosis/condition of "sacral arthritis". What I think they might possibly are referring to is lumbosacral stenosis-- which is a form of arthritis at the juncture of the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum.

  18. For the sake of argument may we set aside for a moment discussions about putative or actual health benefits to any elective surgeries?

    Can we agree on a couple of analogies?

    Surgically neutering a dog in order to alter the dog's behavior, or make ownership easier because of less need for intensive management to prevent unwanted breeding, is in some ways similar to giving a child drugs for ADHD. The medical intervention may range from absolutely necessary for normal life (for parent and child / owner and animal) to a lazy convenience -- depending on circumstances.

    I doubt that many people could in good conscience tell a blind person that he is a terrible person and dog-mutilator for having a spayed guide dog, rather than losing the bitch's service for several weeks twice a year, and risking an unwanted pregnancy or sexual harassment in public if the sightless owner fails to detect estrus.

    Wanting a dog of a particular breed only if that animal has had its (healthy) appearance surgically altered is a bit more like getting a minor child a nose job and ear pinning to make her acceptable-looking.

    You are my baby and I love you, but only if we do something about that beak and that pair of Dumbo ears.

    " is one that does not honour the inventor."


    I remember a discussion a couple years back on the balanced trainers' list. A member was congratulating herself on being a responsible breeder, in that she would kill any puppies that were born the wrong color or coat texture. Not a defective color -- not linked to any health problems -- just a recessive that isn't allowed in the standard, but crops up from time to time. And some other list members -- one of whom owns dogs of another breed that are that exact same color -- were also praising her for her ethics. And I got rather nasty about it, and things went rather heated.

    Catherine Nelson put a stop to the discussion by posing the question "What do dogs deserve of us?" Which, she allowed, could be answered in many ways, but probably not by "To be killed for being born the wrong color."


    It follows the same path, to maintain that a dog's moral claim on us might exclude having his functional body parts amputated because we otherwise find him ugly.

    This is bad enough when it is the individual owner who "finds fault with the ears nature has given him" and decides on a surgical remodel.

    When the correctness of the surgically remodeled dog and the incorrectness of the beast as born is dictated by a powerful entity with the ability to grant or withhold honors and status that can translate into real dollars, then madness follows.

    Aesthetics dictated by power is one pathway to atrocity.

  19. [Blogger limits the length of comments. I had to split this one]

    Kali says that the more she sees natural-eared Dobes, the less "strange" they look to her.

    And that's it, isn't it? -- we prefer the familiar and are comfortable with the norm. Once something stops looking strange, we can see the inherent beauty -- or the inherent lack of it, if that is the unfortunate truth.

    A generation or two ago, most white Americans found people of other races so "strange" that they literally could not find themselves attracted to a member of another race.

    Nowadays, almost no one thinks it odd for a middle-aged white woman to swoon over Djimon Honsou or Chow Yun-Fat.

    But I can guarantee you that not many Aryan mothers of the hood & sheet crowd -- those who are regularly inculcated with the rhetoric of racism -- find anything but ugliness and wrongness in the handsome face of Andre Braugher.

    Their institutional and social environment has told them what is ugly, and so it is to them.

    I've been spending a lot of time with a well-bred Rottweiler who has a tail the last year or so. The tail looked strange at first. I wasn't used to it.

    Now the docked Rottweilers look weird to me.

    Eliminate the warped institutional definition of "correct" and "beautiful," and it takes very little besides time and exposure for our personal definitions to revise themselves.

  20. If I can't cut off my dog's ears and tail to suit my whimsy, then I don't really own him. They'll be coming to take him away any minute.

    In this context, the question isn't whether cropping or docking is justifiable. The question is whether government oversteps their boundaries when they outlaw these practices. And indeed, when government starts meddling in one area of our stewardship over our animals, history shows that it tends to make government more likely to butt in on other areas of animal ownership.

    Research papers and textbooks could probably be written about how the slippery slope has manifested itself with respect to animal law. For example, I find it fascinating that a law mandating that shelter and rescue pets must be sterilized before adoption was repeatedly used not only by supporters of sweeping across-the-board MSN of owned dogs and cats, but even thoughtful, intelligent, and seemingly unbiased analysts in the legislature made that logical leap.

    "They'll be coming to take him away any minute" is condescending hyperbole, and not anything that fairly represents the nature of this objection.

    The point is that unless an issue rises to the level of clearly harming the welfare of the animal, government should keep its nose out. Hand waving arguments do not meet this test.

    I have read many pleas against docking and cropping. They nearly always drip with emotion, righteous indignation, vilification, and unreferenced dubious assertions of harm to animals.

    By all means, argue that breed standards should be relaxed to allow dogs to keep all their parts. I am with you on that point.

    By all means, make your case that dogs may benefit from keeping their tails and/or floppy ears. I'm with you there, at least in part. I discovered the English Shepherd breed when I was seeking an Aussie with a tail. I think you have failed to make your case that ear cropping amounts to "gratuitous cruelty grounded in idle vanity."

    But legally banning a practice, which underlies the distorted quote at the top of this post, is an entirely different issue than arguing that we should be free to choose not to engage in the practice, without penalty of being ejected from beauty pageants. It is also entirely different than trying to persuade individuals to choose not to engage in said practice.

    I have yet to read anything that comes close to justifying outlawing either of these practices, as many lobby for. The burden of proof should not be on those who defend these practices. It should be on those who wish to ban them.

    Sadly, we have already acquiesced to so many overreaching laws that from a practical standpoint, the burden of proof usually falls on those of us who wish to preserve freedom. And those of us who attempt to make a calm, thoughtful case to legislators or their staff that a proposed bill unjustifiably infringes on freedom are met with bipartisan blank stares.

  21. Fighting "pit bulls" were not necessarily cropped (and never docked). The reason for cropping ears (to prevent the opponent from holding on) is bogus: Ear holds were not an effective fighting tactic and dogmen didn't favor dogs who took such holds. There are plenty of photos/illustrations of both.. and illustrations of old time bulldoggy types dog with and without cropped ears.

    BTW: the AKC standard for the AmStaff says "natural ears preferred". Nonetheless, breeders crop their dog's ears because they believe judges only will put up crop- eared dogs... so judges never see natural eared dogs and breeders don't try to achieve good looking ears.

  22. BTW, the English cousin/precursor to the American Pit Bull Terrier -- the Staffordshire Bull Terrier -- had a very similar dogfighting heritage. As far as I can see from photos/illustrations, it was virtually NEVER cropped.

  23. Does this cruelty prosecution infringe on animal ownership rights?

  24. Why are Australian shepherds even docked? To make sure they don't look like Border collies?

    Bobtailed herders were docked in England to avoid a tax.

    But we don't have any tax like that.

    The tiger dogs I've seen from Germany aren't docked at all. They look like undocked Aussies.

    I know that some Australian cattle dog people dock their dogs when they work pigs because pigs have been known to grab a dog by the tail. Or so the theory goes.

    My source on the sacral arthritis is Bruce Fogle's book The Encyclopedia of the Dog (the first version).

    I've researched tail docking, and the only cases where I can find any logical argument is with HPR's and with livestock guardians that guard stock from wolves.

    Guardian dog:


    In the guardian dogs, cropping also makes some sense.

    But these aren't pet dogs.

    I view all conformation from utilitarian and Darwinist terms. If conformation ruins a dogs' ability to have a good life, it shouldn't be bred for.

    And unless a procedure can be proven to help the dog do its work or live its life with comfort and efficiency, then I think we should question its legitimacy.

    Oh, wait, that's one thing you can't do if you're in dogs. Questioning long-established traditions is taboo!

    I am fine with docking part of the tail, as is done in HPRs and livestock guardians.

  25. Re: speutering Guide Dogs.

    At the risk of sounding a little picky, the visually impaired handler doesn't spay/neuter the dog. The organization that trained the dog does.

    I think we can all agree that a service dog, especially a guide dog, is a special case. The work required of the dog, the handling skills and observational limits of the user (for many, this is the first dog they've *ever* handled), all make it much simpler to have an altered dog. It's a matter of convenience and safety for the user. It's also a way for the school to control access to their bloodlines.

    That said, they make a point of keeping the dogs intact as long as possible, to try to mitigate the health/temp problems that arise from pediatric speuters (at least, the school that I worked at for 4 years had this policy--I can't speak for all guide dog schools).

    Like I said, my stance on cropping is basically, "It's not really FOR anything except human preference, but it doesn't appear to cause any more suffering to the dog than a speuter, which we have decided is acceptable in this culture."

    (I would probably never bother to crop a dog's ears. Not only is it unnecessary for my purposes, it's expensive and the aftercare sounds like a drag. I would not hesitate to buy a puppy who already had his tail docked at birth.)

    Anything after that, I think, is a matter of so-called "philosophical differences"; what you want to compare that "preference" to or place on a continuum with--tradition, protecting dog-owner's rights, black helicopters, vanity, mutilation, plastic surgery, eugenics, racism, or killing puppies for being born with the wrong coat color.

    Docking seems to get a few more points, and might be slightly more analogous to a speuter, in that there are sometimes medical reasons for tail amputation (as their are for speuter), and there are "jobs" that make it a matter of safety and convenience to shorten the tail (as there are with speuter). I agree that in many cases, it's done out of tradition and that dog will likely never do a lick of work that puts that tail in danger (it is also complicated by the fact that the least risky and complicated time to dock a tail is right after birth, when you probably have no idea what the future lifestyle of the dog will be). But again, even if that is true, I'm not totally convinced yet that it causes any more suffering than a speuter. In other words, I'm inclined to "allow" the right to crop/dock, even if it results in unnecessary procedures, in order to protect the right to speuter (or not), even if it results in unnecessary procedures.

    I do agree that a large step in making the crop/dock issue an actual *choice* would be allowing natural eared/tailed dogs in competition and not penalizing them for it. If someone doesn't want to do that to their dog, they shouldn't feel like they have to in order to successfully compete.

    Is the objection that cropping/docking can be placed on a continuum with killing ridgeless Ridgeback puppies or white GSDs?

    Is that inevitable? Am I just being a naive optimist here in thinking it maybe is doesn't have to be?

  26. Why are Australian shepherds even docked?

    I think I can answer why Aussies were historically docked.

    English Shepherds are the closest living cousins of Australian Shepherds. Despite their names, both breeds were developed in the USA. Both derive from the same North American landrace of shepherd/collie dogs. The ES was developed in the eastern and midwestern states, while the Aussie was developed in the western USA.

    Most ES (included mine) have full tails, while Aussies are docked. A small percentage of ES breeders dock tails, and some ES have natural bobtails. A full ES tail is probably what Aussie tails would look like if the latter weren't docked.

    I live in California and work my ES in wilderness SAR. I work my ES on the same kind of land that Aussies were historically bred to work cattle. In many cases its exactly the same land, rugged mixed oaks and grassland open space that had historically been cattle ranches.

    During training and searches, my ES's tail picks up all manner of burrs and stuff. It takes a lot of time to pull it all out. I can understand why a busy, practical cattleman would not have time to mess with that.

    My friends who work Aussies in SAR trim the long butt fur off their dogs to reduce the amount of burrs and stuff that ends up attached there. I do the same with my ES Rikki. But I can't bring myself to trim Rikki's long tail fur.

  27. Does this cruelty prosecution infringe on animal ownership rights?

    There's not enough information to determine that.

  28. A judge now thinks otherwise:

    Judge Elliott wrote, “Appellant’s claims center on her premise that a person of normal intelligence would not know whether piercing a kitten’s ears or banding its tail is maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring an animal.”

    The judge added, “We disagree.”


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