I thought I'd share with you a little bit of family history. Shorty after our daughter was born, we had her earlobes surgically removed and the tips of the little fingers on both hands cut off. It was quite fashionable at the time and it was something my wife and her mother had done, so we decided it would be good for our daughter too. The alterations attract quite a bit of attention, and we think it was worth it. It didn't hurt much and only required a local anesthetic; the wounds didn't take long to heal and now she is a grown up, we are pleased to say that she has never had ear infections or damaged her pinkies. So a good result all round eh? If any of this were true, you should now be composing abusive feedback for me, decrying this unforgivable and utterly unnecessary mutilation. It would be despicable wouldn't it? You might even consider reporting me to the authorities. Of course, we didn't do this. Her earlobes and little fingers are quite intact. But we do have a number of dogs that were mutilated when they were babies, and I see no reason why these vile practices should not be considered of equal abhorrence. There's a question about it in my up and coming book 'For Dog's Sake', so rather than paraphrase, here's an extract. It follows on immediately from a question about the way in which dogs use their tails for communication:
What about dogs that have their tails docked?
This question leads us into an area that might be controversial for a percentage of the readership. Nonetheless, it is quite clear and unequivocal from a dog's perspective.
Not only is tail docking wholly unnecessary and cruel, it is a form of mutilation that does nothing less than maim and permanently, irretrievably, damage a dog's ability to communicate.
If we were to try and draw a parallel with human communication, it is the equivalent of a redundant surgical intervention that leaves them with a permanent speech defect that is (at best) on a par with slurring or stuttering. The consequent difficulties that are created cannot be fully overcome. It is difficult for any listener to understand. It makes it all the harder for the individual speaking to clearly deliver any message they intend. They are forced to rely upon telepathy, creating inevitable difficulties in certain situations. There are of course no therapists or support for docked dogs, and they are burdened with the deficiency for life.
Let’s just pause for a moment to think about docking clearly and logically.
Cutting off a part of an animal at birth because other people do it and a precedent exists.
The excuses given for why such a barbaric practice is maintained are feeble and a convenient distortion of the truth that any right thinking person should see their way around. It is perpetuated because it is fashionable and expected in a limited sector of the dog owning fraternity. Yet were we to mutilate children like this, the outcry would be unending.
No veterinarian with compassion should perform the docking procedure.
No individual who sees beyond the frivolous nature of what is done would wish to do this inexcusable harm to creatures they really care about.
Yet the practice continues through fear.
Fear of being objective.
Fear of empathising with the dog.
Fear of making a reasoned, compassionate assessment of the act.
Fear of examining personal choices.
Fear of speaking out.
Fear of making a stand.
Fear of saying “No”.
Fear of being different.
Fear of going against what a certain element declares is acceptable.
Fear of being ostracised.
As with so many wrongs in our society, to say nothing, to do nothing, stops nothing. Not until breed clubs come to their senses, the dog showing fraternity change their breed standards and key influencers such as judges and individual breeders decide to take a stand against it will this practise be abandoned. Societal change can only ever begin with individual action.
In the meantime, it is worth reflecting that all of the messages given in this book are not mine. They are given by those who see that individual choices, whilst affecting others, affect the person choosing most of all.
As for the docked dogs, mercifully, they may continue their lives without apparent concern or major impact after the procedure. They learn to cope and overcome, just as any handicapped individual does. But you may rest assured that the dogs are damaged. If you have understood all that is written in this book so far, it will be obvious why.
Amongst our extended pack, we have four Poodles. Three came to us docked, and because of the circumstances we had no choice in the matter and no way to prevent their mutilation. (One, pictured above, only has about two inches of unusable stub where his lengthy tail should be.) The fourth has an impressive full length tail.
If you watch them carefully, it slowly becomes apparent that the relationship between the pack at large and the Poodle with the tail is far easier and more relaxed than for any of the docked dogs. After a while of knowing what you are looking for, the difference becomes quite striking. The tailed dog is more acceptable to the majority than the docked dogs. He is more integrated, more accepted, more popular.
They are all fabulous, friendly, wonderful dogs. But I wonder what unseen opportunities they are deprived of by the cruel and unnecessary choice that was made about them in their infancy.
That's the end of the extract, but I do have some last thoughts to share: This extract refers only to tail docking, but many breeds also have their ears routinely docked. It's equally barbaric, equally vile and equally pointless. It only happens if breeders mindlessly decide to have it done. There are NO legitimate reasons for it, nor were there ever. Why does an already perfect organism need to be tampered with by us? It should come as no surprise that as a practice, docking is now banned in many European countries, but it is still both legal and acceptable in Canada and the US. If you ever find yourself presented with the opportunity to do so, please speak out against this stupid and despicable act. Thank you.