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RSPCA calls for tougher action as illegal ear cropping continues in Wales

The RSPCA has received 79 reports in Wales since 2020


RSPCA Cymru is calling for more to be done to crack down on an illegal procedure which mutilates dogs’ ears, as more maimed pups enter rescues in Wales.

The RSPCA has reported today that 1,100 dogs are reported to have undergone a cruel and unnecessary procedure of having their ears cropped in the last three years – with 79 of these coming from Wales.

The animal welfare charity has joined forces with Llanharan charity Hope Rescue – who currently have eight dogs with cropped ears in their care – on its Mutilated for Money campaign. The campaign aims to remind the public about the laws on cropped dogs and the welfare issues the procedure can cause pets. So far, more than 13,000 people across Wales and England have supported the campaign – which also calls on the current loophole that allows dogs with cropped ears to be imported to be closed.

Today’s ear cropping figures have been released as part of the RSPCA’s  Cancel Out Cruelty campaign – to raise awareness about how to stop cruelty to animals for good – and to highlight the barbaric procedure. In many cases, ear cropping is carried out illegally in the UK solely for the aim of making the dog look “tough”.

Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “Ear cropping is a painful and unnecessary practice in which a dogs’ ears are removed or surgically altered. Sadly, many owners who do this do it because they think the look is glamorous or it makes their pet look tough.

“But it is detrimental to their health, behaviour and welfare – they do not benefit from having it done, and the way it is illegally carried out in the UK – by people who are not vet professionals – leads them to suffer.”

Despite it being illegal in the UK, there are social media accounts which promote the practice.

Samantha added: “We don’t want this cruel procedure – which is essentially dogs being mutilated for money – to be normalised. We are concerned that it is a growing fashion trend and it needs to be stopped.”

A stray Bully type dog – now named Bumblebee – came into the care of Llanharan-based charity Hope Rescue last month. She has cropped ears which were badly infected.

Vanessa Waddon, Hope Rescue’s senior head of operations, said: “Bumblebee is five-years-old and has sadly been through a lot. Both of her ears were infected and she has also been bred multiple times.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to trace the owner and we don’t know where she came from. She is receiving ear cleaner, medicated ear drops and steroids to try to reduce the long term inflammation.

“Bumblebee is a happy, friendly and playful girl who is really starting to flourish in our care. She is now ready for a forever home and we hope we are able to find her the perfect place soon.”

Hope Rescue currently has eight dogs with cropped ears in their care.

“Shockingly, we see at least one stray cropped dog every single month either being abandoned or brought into our care,” added Vanessa.

“Ear cropping is a totally unnecessary and traumatic procedure, and its only purpose is to satisfy demand for a certain look. Poor Bumblebee didn’t deserve to have her ears mutilated.”

Ian Briggs, head of the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit – which investigates ear cropping – said the team have seen “horrific” DIY ear cropping kits at homes of people who carry out the cruel practice. He said: “The idea of a person cutting off a dog’s ears with a pair of scissors and no pain relief or anaesthetic is stomach-churning – but that is exactly what they do. And it is even more sickening to know that they are only doing this because they think it will make the dog look ‘tough’ or they can sell the dog for more money.

“We have seen dogs who have suffered because of the after effects of this cruel procedure. They are at a high risk of infection and discomfort – what’s trendy or fashionable about that? Absolutely nothing.”

“It’s done purely for cosmetic purposes and can sadly lead to puppies being sold for much more money. We’d urge the public and anyone looking to buy a puppy to remember that this is an illegal procedure which has hugely negative impacts for the dogs themselves.

“We are highlighting this horrific practice as part of our Cancel Out Cruelty campaign to help fund investigations into these awful cases whilst also campaigning to end ear-cropping for good.”

Illegal practice still happens in UK

Whilst ear cropping is an illegal practice in the UK, it still happens. And shockingly, it isn’t illegal to import a dog with cropped ears into the country – making it harder to prove illegal cropping at home and leaving a loophole for owners to source dogs with cropped ears from abroad.

The UK Government had pledged to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears as part of its Kept Animals Bill – but sadly, the UK Government scrapped the bill earlier this year, prompting the RSPCA to urge Ministers to find a viable alternative plan to ban it as soon as possible.

The RSPCA is urging people to write to their MP to ask for an urgent change in cracking down on imports of dogs with cropped ears.

The Welsh Government had previously stated its intention to put forward a legislative consent motion to the Senedd concerning the Kept Animals Bill. This would have likely included giving the UK Government consent to introduce new rules that would enable Welsh Ministers to restrict the importation of dogs with mutilations such as cropped ears into Wales. However, now that the bill has been scrapped, it is uncertain what will happen now in Wales.

Last year, a Statement of Opinion laid at the Welsh Parliament by Natasha Asghar MS – and supported by RSPCA Cymru – was signed by 23 Senedd Members – more than half of those eligible to sign. The statement, signed by Members of all four political parties represented at the Senedd, urged the Welsh Government to “redouble its efforts to stamp out the illegal and cruel mutilation of dogs in Wales” and highlighted the dramatic rise in reports of ear cropping received by the RSPCA.