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File image of a gray and white Pit Bull Terrier mixed breed dog with cropped ears. Alamy Stock Photo
ear cropping

Stricter laws on ownership of dogs with cropped ears to be introduced in coming weeks

Cropping the ears of dogs is an offence in Ireland but at present there is no law in place against owning a dog with cropped ears.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Aug 2023

STRICTER REGULATIONS ON the ownership and importation of dogs with cropped ears will be introduced in the coming weeks.

Cropping the ears of dogs is an offence in Ireland but at present there is no law in place against owning a dog with cropped ears.

However, last October an Oireachtas Committee recommended a ban on owning dogs with cropped ears. 

In a statement to The Journal, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “Cropping of dogs’ ears is an unnecessary, cruel practice that has no place in Ireland.

“This procedure causes severe pain and lifelong problems for dogs. Cropping of dogs’ ears has been illegal in Ireland since 2013.

“These new regulations will extend existing prohibitions on ear cropping, to protect dogs across Ireland from this unjustifiable and needless mutilation.”

The new regulations will be signed by Minister McConalogue next week and will come into force in September.

It will make it illegal for a person to be in possession, or have control, of a dog that has had all, or part, of its ears removed after the date on which the regulations come into effect, unless the person has in their possession the necessary documentation.

Depending on the circumstances, the required documentation may be an import licence, a veterinary certificate or a record issued by an animal welfare charity.

It will be illegal to import into Ireland a dog with cropped ears unless an import licence is granted in advance.

A Department spokesperson said: “This will address the claim which can sometimes be made by those engaged in cropping dogs ears in Ireland that the dog underwent the mutilation in another country.

“The sale or supply of dogs with cropped ears (other than by listed animal welfare charities) will also be prohibited.

“A list of animal welfare charities approved to rehome dogs with cropped ears following their rescue will be published.

“These regulations also prohibit owners or occupiers of land or premises in which shows, competitions, sporting or cultural events are held from having dogs with cropped ears present at such events.”

Ear cropping (or docking) is the removal or alteration of the external visible flap of a dog’s ears.

In the past, it was done for perceived health, practical or cosmetic reasons.

However, current veterinary science considers that there is no medical or physical advantage to the animal from the procedure.

“There is considerable cruelty and suffering associated with this unnecessary and barbaric practice,” said the ISPCA in a statement welcoming the move.

“It is not just the pain that is inflicted during the procedure and its immediate aftermath. Dogs can experience life-long pain as a result of having their ears cut off.

“And the dogs are impacted in other, less obvious ways including their ability to communicate.

“Dogs use visual cues to communicate and express emotion, and removing part or all of their ears severely limits their ability to do so.”

Meanwhile, Conor Dowling, chief inspector with the ISPCA explained: “As the law stood until now it has been very difficult to prove offences in court.

“While it was an offence to perform the cropping procedure or to cause another person to carry it out, it was not illegal to import such a dog, to possess such a dog, or to buy or sell such a dog.

“It will take some time, but we hope that this new legislation will finally put a stop to ear cropping in Ireland for good, and that we will get to a position where dogs with cropped ears will not be normalised.”

Elsewhere, Corina Fitzsimons, communications manager with Dogs Trust, told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that there will be an amnesty for anyone who currently owns a dog with cropped ears.

She added that resources will be available to prosecute people who break the new law.

Fitzsimons also warned that it is often “untrained people” who carry out the ear cropping, and that the trauma inflicted can harm the dog for the rest of its life.

“The pain can be chronic and they can be in constant pain, given this is carried out by people who have no knowledge of anatomy or veterinary qualifications,” said Fitzsimons.

“Some people may justify this by saying it prevents ear protection, but it does the exact opposite and there is absolutely no veterinary evidence that this benefits a dog in any shape or form, in fact it is the exact opposite,” warned Fitzsimons.

“You are taking a dog who was meant to have a flap over that ear canal for protection and then you are removing that protection solely because of how you want the dog to look.”

She also advised the public to be mindful that someone who owns a dog with cropped ears may not be its first owner or the person responsible for having its ears cropped.

“It’s very easy to look and judge, but the owner may not have wanted their dog to look like that.”

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