The Boxer Club of Canada Inc.
 

November 2009

 

The College of Veterinarians of Ontario

Re: The Ethics of Cosmetic Surgery/Medically Unnecessary Surgery

As the National Breed Club representing the Boxer Breed in Canada it is with a strong voice that we write to you today.  We wish to present our views on these controversial issues.

An overview: There are 174 breeds registered in Canada that are either cropped, docked, and/or remove dewclaws. There are more than 50 CKC recognized breeds that include ear cropping or tail docking or both as acceptable options under their breed standards. These breed standards are the rightful purview of Breed Parent Clubs responsible for the preservation and advancement of their breeds.

Breed Standard provisions are grounded in the history, purpose and working characteristics of the individual breeds. Removing the breeders rights to these procedures will change these breeds forever. Many will not survive it. Contrary to the claims that we crop and dock to "beautify" our dogs (cosmetic), in actual fact, these procedures predate dog show by hundreds of years, and are done to preserve the function of the breeds.

Our concern is that if the College prevents qualified professionals from doing these surgeries the door opens for unqualified and untrained people who will certainly take over these duties.  The number of dogs who may be maimed and will die is something you should consider.  It should be the choice of every Veterinarian to do or not to do these procedures.  Dictating to your membership that they cannot will cause untold suffering in our breed and many others.

It should also be noted that veterinarians have been quite capable of making the choice of whether or not to perform these surgeries by themselves for many years. No veterinarian is forced by anyone to perform them, they can refuse to do them if they so wish.  It is their choice.  Why is there a need to govern the choices of these professionals in this matter? The fear is that when Veterinarians, with their choice removed, cannot perform these surgeries, laymen will.

The care for the dogs in question will suffer and great harm will be done by a decision such as this. Surely, this is not what the Veterinary profession would want.

The purebred dog fraternity draws upon people from all walks of life and strains of society. The one common denominator binding all of us is our love of animals. When it comes to animal lovers we are of the most devoted and are often regarded as curious for the extraordinary lengths we go to as devoted dog owners and the pedestal upon which we place our precious pets.

Breeding is not an objective or emotionally detached practice for us. It is undertaken with genuine passion and regard for the producing parents as well as their offspring. Responsible breeders are the ones who will stay up all night whelping a litter and only go in to work (bleary eyed) the next day if they are satisfied that all is well. In addition breeders are the ones who will shed a tear when a puppy is stillborn, regardless of whether there are 2 or 10 puppies – all are precious.

The sacrifices made and the heartache endured arise out of nothing more or less than a genuine passion and love for dogs – the animals that we have chosen to fashion our lives around. It is difficult to reconcile the above picture with that of a breeder who would willingly, routinely and wantonly inflict cruelty upon their animals. The difficulty arises because the latter is an inaccurate and ill-conceived portrayal of what really happens. Breeders simply would not practice ear cropping and tail docking if what they witnessed every time a litter was cropped, docked or had dew claws removed struck them as cruel. It defies logic and, to put it very basically, would break their hearts.

Please take the time to see the wisdom of the early developers of these wonderful breeds, and understand that when the breeders of today seem passionate about their breed standards, it is with the utmost respect for history and devotion to the breeds that they love.

Those of us who love these traditionally cropped and docked breeds would not be doing anything to our dogs if it were not in their best interest. Nor do we wish to see unqualified people attempting these procedures. 

Why we dock: To prevent injury.
We have all heard the stories about the occasional Great Dane having tail injuries occurring around the home. These cases in the Dane are not too common, since their tail carriage is low, and they do not tend to be vigorous tail waggers. In the breeds which have been traditionally docked, many for over a century, these injuries are all too common if left undocked.

Since docking was banned in Sweden in 1989, there has been a massive increase in tail injuries among previously docked breeds. Within the 50 undocked Pointer litters registered in that year with the Swedish Kennel Club, 38% of dogs suffered tail injury before they were 18 months old and in 1991, the number of individuals with tail injuries had increased to 51% of the group. The types of tail injuries included wounded and bleeding tips (on occasion very difficult to heal due to poor blood circulation in the tail), swollen, lame, and or broken tails etc. This is just in two years. In one breed alone! Please refer to http://cdb.org/boxer_tail.htm for a Veterinary viewpoint on the Boxer tail.

Boxers and many other traditionally docked breeds have long whip like tails and because of their dispositions wag them vigorously.  In the case of undocked dogs of these breeds injuries are common, injuries that do not heal well and often result in amputation.  Docking a 3 day old puppy is much kinder than amputating the tail of an older dog. 

In addition to the many cases of injuries to the dogs, there have also been numerous reports of injuries to children by the family dog. The breeders of long ago had the good sense to prevent these injuries, and in the case of the traditionally docked breeds, included the proper length of tail for these breeds in the blueprint for the breeds, the Breed Standard. To leave the tails of these dogs undocked is cruel. With the banning of tail docking in many European countries, and the U.K. and Australia, we now have visible evidence of the wisdom of this, and the cruelty evident now in banning this practice on breeds developed over hundreds of years with docked tails. It is important to note that not all dogs are docked. Traditionally docked breeds are not directly comparable to non-docked breeds in terms of tail injury, because the principal original purpose of docking was to remove the tail from those breeds which were originally found to be susceptible to tail injury. The need to dock depends on the structure and nature of the tail, and the tail action, together with the type of work in which a dog is normally employed. Thus Labradors, which have a thick tail, heavily protected by a double coat of dense hair and a relatively low, slow tail action, are not docked. Boxers which have a thin tail, lightly covered with fine hair and a high, fast and enthusiastic tail action, are docked.

Docking is not a painful procedure when done correctly at 3 days of age. At that age, the tail bone of a pup is still soft and the nervous system is undeveloped. Research shows that pups at that age do not feel anything that we could call pain. Veterinary observation of the behaviour of a puppy after a properly performed tail docking does not suggest suffering. Immediately pre-docking, puppies may vocalize as a normal reaction to being handled. Post docking, every puppy rejoins its siblings quietly, finds a comfortable position and immediately sucks milk or goes back to sleep. Furthermore, normal weight gain proceeds unimpeded. As far as the pup in later life is concerned, it is as if the docking has never taken place. Docking is a perfectly humane procedure when properly carried out, and one which prevents far more distress than it causes. It is inhumane not to dock dogs from the traditionally docked breeds.

Considering that many Veterinarians refuse to include the declawing of cats among the procedures they are considering banning, as has been done in New Brunswick, because of the danger that owners would destroy the cat if the surgery was not done, one can only imagine the outcry from dog owners confronted with these problems, and the resulting bad press for the Veterinary Associations for this inconsistency.

Why do we crop: To preserve the function our breed was created for.
The Boxer’s ears were not: and are not cropped for cosmetic beautification purposes as some people have alleged. The shape of a dog’s ear contributes to their hearing ability. An upright ear maximizes their ability to hear sounds more proficiently. The cropping is done for a specific purpose: to enhance the effectiveness of their hearing ability. Thus, resulting in better performance of the task of protection and other tasks for which the Boxer was bred for.

Nature never intended the long pendulous ears we see on so many breeds of today.The upright ear, in addition to full hearing ability, is also a healthier ear. Infection rates between erect ears and pendulous ears are over double the rate for the long eared dog.

Why do we remove Dewclaws:
Have you ever had to treat a dog that has ripped his dewclaw off or partially off?  You will not see all of them because some owners will care for them themselves but any of you that have will surely know the trauma and pain these dogs go through.  Ask yourselves if you want to be a party to this or would it be better to prevent these injuries in the first place.

Additionally there is a potential for injury when dogs with dewclaws play with humans.  If a dog accidentally injures a child with its dewclaw, the local authorities will not differentiate that injury from one caused by a dog bite (the dog hurt the child – it doesn’t matter how it did it) and the dog will be looked upon as a dangerous animal and perhaps ordered to be put down.

 The surgical issues: Surgery is surgery and always has risks and is only ever done for the owner’s convenience and is never done at the request of the animal. So, if it comes down to rights how is it a vet can decide this surgery is OK and that one is not? Trimming a bit of ear is not invasive, unlike surgical spaying which is not considered inhumane, even with all the negative hormonal and health issues attached to that. Why then should cropping be held to a different standard?

Spay neuter programs are vigorously encouraged but the public has been misled about their worth. In fact, both are done primarily for the convenience of the owners. We now know that the number of animals – whether purebred or random bred - dying in shelters has very little to do with how many are being born, and that purebred dogs and cats account for only 7.3 percent and 0.9 percent respectively of all animals received by shelters nationwide (USA. American Humane Association study data).  http://www.naiaonline.org/articles/archives/lemlaw1.htm   In light of these statistics spaying and neutering would be considered medically unnecessary surgery.

We support the Veterinary College so that the care our dogs receive is uncompromised.  We also wish to maintain the individual Veterinarian’s free choice to do surgeries they personally feel comfortable with.

In addition, we have given breeders and owners the freedom to choose to crop or not to crop by altering our Breed Standard, but as the National Breed Club we must also respect and maintain the history, purpose and working characteristics of our breed and wish to keep this choice available to us.  We do not want to alter our Breed Standard to include anything that will be detrimental to the dogs themselves so do not support undocked Boxers or Boxers with Dewclaws attached..

Sincerely

The executive of the Boxer Club of Canada on behalf of our members nationwide:

President – Jenny Catton                                               Vice President – David Gilmour
Past President – Michael Catton                                     Treasurer – Paul Dulong
Recording Secretary – Mary L. Curl                                Corresponding Secretary – Shirley Bell