The RSPCA is urging the UK Government to ban imports into the UK of dogs with cropped ears – paving the way for Welsh Government action too; and new research shows that most people in Wales agree.
The call for a change in the law comes as the RSPCA launches its Mutilated for Money campaign, highlighting the horrific cruelty dogs go through during the barbaric procedure to crop their ears – and, in many cases, for the aim of the dog to look “tough”.
Whilst it 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 Animal Bill – but there has been little movement on the bill since November 2021.
The Welsh Government had previously stated its intention to put forward a legislative consent motion to the Senedd concerning the Kept Animals Bill – including giving the UK Government consent to introduce for Wales new rules that would pave the way for Welsh Ministers to restrict the importation of dogs with mutilations such as cropped ears.
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 highlights the dramatic rise in reports of ear cropping received by the RSPCA.
The RSPCA has now joined forces with Llanharan based Hope Rescue on the campaign which is aimed at reminding the public about the laws on cropped dogs and the welfare issues the procedure can cause pets.
It comes as new research* by the RSPCA shows:
89% of adults surveyed in Wales agree or strongly agree the importation of dogs with cropped ears should be banned.
13% of Welsh adults surveyed said that they know somebody who owns a dog with cropped ears, a figure which rises to 26% of those aged 18 to 34
2 in 5 (40%) Welsh adults surveyed said that they would either be nervous adopting a dog with cropped ears, or wouldn’t consider it at all, whilst 24% were unsure.
As part of the campaign, the RSPCA and Hope Rescue are urging people to write to their MP, so they can lobby the UK Government to act – making the urgent change by cracking down on imports of dogs with cropped ears. This, in turn, will pave the way for action in Wales too – allowing the Senedd to vote to give the Bill legislative consent in Wales; and empowering Welsh Ministers to introduce rules restricting the importation of mutilated dogs.
Last year, the RSPCA’s emergency line received more than one report every single day about ear cropped dogs – with 391 incidents reported across England and Wales. From 2020 to 2022, 1,066 reports have been logged by the charity – with 73 of these coming from Wales. So far in 2023, the RSPCA has received 124 reports about ear cropping across England and Wales.
In 2022, two men from North Wales were banned from keeping all animals for 24 months after failing to provide veterinary care and attention for a puppy with cropped ears.
Elsewhere, last year, just across the border in the West Midlands three men appeared in court for offences relating to ear cropping after three puppies were found in a semi-comatose state just after having the prohibited procedure. They were all disqualified from keeping dogs and faced prison sentences.
Dr Sam Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals team, said: “Ear cropping is a painful and unnecessary practice in which a dogs’ ears are removed or surgically altered. It does not benefit the dog in any way and can actually be detrimental to their health, behaviour and welfare; but sadly many owners think the look is glamorous or makes their pet look tough.
“While we do have concerns that ear cropping is being carried out illegally, and underground, in Wales, some dogs with cropped ears are being sent abroad to have the procedure done or are being imported deliberately from countries with less stringent animal welfare laws and regulations than here.
“Dogs should never be mutilated for cosmetic purposes and, while this practice has been illegal for a long, long time, we’d like to see more regulation to ensure that it’s no longer possible to get a cropped dog in England and Wales, unless rescuing through a reputable organisation.
“Sadly, our rescuers continue to frequently see dogs who are suffering as a result of ear cropping – so regulations which will ban the importation of dogs with cropped ears will be so important.
“We know unscrupulous traders seek to circumvent the law and crop dogs’ ears to try and make a quick buck, which is frustratingly fuelled by unhelpful social media trends. That’s why we’re urging the UK and Welsh Governments to work with us and our friends at Hope Rescue to launch a new promotional campaign, highlighting to dog owners the law and how dangerous ear cropping is for dogs. We are also keen for the progression of the Kept Animals Bill, to criminalise the import of these poor dogs with cropped ears – which will pave the way for action in Wales too.”
Henry (pictured) arrived in the care of Hope Rescue as a stray in May 2022. The rescue received a call late at night from a concerned member of the public after finding Henry collapsed, unable to stand and emaciated. He had sadly had his ears cropped and was never claimed but has since found a wonderful foster home in South Wales.
Hope Rescue’s senior head of operations, Vanessa Waddon, said: “We’re deeply concerned about the increasing number of ear-cropped dogs coming into our care. In the last 12 months alone, we have taken in 12 ear-cropped dogs.
“Ear-cropping is a totally unnecessary and traumatic procedure, and its only purpose is to satisfy demand for a certain look. Poor Henry didn’t deserve to have his ears mutilated.
“We are urging the public to not buy into this cruelty and take action if they suspect illegal ear-cropping. We’re also urging the UK Government to close the loophole that allows importation of ear-cropped dogs and bring back the Kept Animals Bill before time runs out, which will help lead to action in Wales too.”
As well as urging the UK Government to keep its promise on the Kept Animals Bill, the RSPCA is also raising awareness among Members of Senedd’s of this issue.
South Wales East MS Natasha Asghar MS said: “Ear-cropping is a despicable and painful practice which can have a hugely detrimental impact on dogs.
“I raised the abhorrent act of ear-cropping in the Welsh Parliament previously and was pleased to receive cross-party support – which just goes to show how we all take animal welfare seriously.
“It’s only right that people who carry out illegal and cruel mutilation of dogs are punished and it’s vital the Welsh Government and UK Government work together to stamp out this practice once and for all.
“One way we can help clamp down on this awful practice is to see a ban on importing dogs with cropped ears to the UK, and I welcome the RSPCA’s campaign for action in this area.”
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit: www.rspca.org.uk/give.