Owners or importers of dogs with cropped ears could face hefty fines or even jail terms under new regulations targeting the practice of ear cropping.
Corina Fitzsimons, Communications Manager with Dogs Trust, said that the practice of ear cropping on dogs is “completely and utterly unethical” and there is “no justification whatsoever for it”.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, she said allowances will be made for people who own a dog with cropped ears, if they are not the ones responsible for cropping them.
“There’s obviously going to be some sort of an amnesty for somebody who is in possession of a dog who currently has cropped ears, just in case anyone is worried about that hearing this news.”
The new rules will also target those operating or controlling vehicles, vessels, or aircraft used for importing dogs with cropped ears, according to a report in The Irish Times.
The paper reports that the regulations, which will be signed by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue next week, are due to be implemented from next month and will include restrictions on people who possess or control dogs that have had procedures done.
Those found to be in breach could face fines of up to €250,000 and up to five years in prison if it is deemed a serious case or face a penalty of €5,000 or up to six months if it is deemed to be more minor.
There will also be strict rules on the sale and supply of dogs with cropped ears, with exemptions being made where it is medically allowed or if a registered charity is seeking to rehome it.
Ms Fitzsimons said that a blade is often used by untrained people to remove the dog’s ear.
“They literally cut through the flap of the dog’s ear, it goes through cartilage and nerve endings, not given any anaesthesia,” she explained.
“They are often young puppies and there can be a misconception that really young puppies can’t feel pain, when actually their brain is developing at that stage and the trauma, and the pain can affect them for the rest of their lives.”
She said that as a result of ear cropping, dogs can be left with ears that constantly twitch, that are open to the wind, and they have no protection over the ear canal.
Dogs also cannot show their natural behaviour when their ears are cropped, she added.
“If their ears are made to be erect, and another dog sees them, the other dog can misinterpret what they’re trying to say.
“As can humans because we have three such dogs in our care at the moment and we’ve actually been given feedback from people who said: ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can adopt a dog that looks like that because I think they look quite intimidating’.”
She said that in a lot of cases, ear cropping is carried out to make a dog look a certain way.
Dogs Trust has seen a “huge increase” in the volume of dogs with cropped ears, according to Ms Fitzsimons, while in the UK the RSPCA reported a 236% increase in the practice over the last five years.
There is no veterinary evidence to suggest that ear cropping benefits a dog in any way, she said.
“You’re taking a dog who was meant to have a flap over the ear canal, that ear canal was designed to be protected by that flap, and then you’re removing that protection solely for how you want the dog to look.”
She said it is worth noting that if you come across a person walking a dog with cropped ears, it does not necessarily mean that the person walking the dog is responsible for its ears being cropped.
“It’s important for any member of the public, if you see someone walking a dog with cropped ears, they may not be the person who has done that, or they may not be the first owner of that dog.”
Previously, some people accused of cropping claimed it was done before they got the dog in order to avoid responsibility, however now, under the new legislation, this will no longer be a valid excuse.
Ms Fitzsimons said that Dogs Trust is delighted that the Government has taken this particular stance on this piece of legislation as it will no longer be acceptable as an excuse.