December 15, 2003


 New AAHA position statement opposes cosmetic ear cropping, tail docking

Posted Dec. 1, 2003

Recently, the American Animal Hospital Association announced that it has revised its position on ear cropping and tail docking of pets and now opposes these surgical procedures when performed for cosmetic reasons alone.

Moreover, the AAHA supports laws requiring veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal abuse, as long as veterinarians are protected from liability.

The international organization of more than 29,000 veterinary care providers has also stated that the profession is responsible for contributing to solutions for reducing the number of healthy animals euthanatized annually.

These are among a number of new and amended animal welfare position statements the AAHA board of directors approved in October.

New position statements address declawing and canine devocalization, whereas the revised statements deal with animal abuse and reporting, euthanasia, and ear cropping and tail docking.

The AAHA Animal Welfare and Ethics Task Force drafted the statements in response to society's increased focus on companion animal welfare. The task force "was appointed to prioritize and address issues that would provide leadership and timely guidance for the veterinary profession, related pet industries, and the public," explained task force chair, Dr. Merry Crimi.

The revised ear cropping and tail docking position statement goes beyond the AAHA's previous position, adopted in 1998, that advised veterinarians to inform clients about the risks of the surgeries, to oppose both the procedures when done solely for cosmetic reasons.

The AAHA encourages veterinarians to counsel and educate pet owners that these procedures should not be performed unless medically necessary, as well as encourages the elimination of these procedures from breed standards.

The AAHA adopted the AVMA's position statement on canine devocalization, recommending that devocalization only be performed by a licensed veterinarian as a final alternative after all behavior modification efforts to correct excessive barking have failed.

The declawing position statement advises that declawing of domestic cats is not medically necessary and, in most cases, should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when clawing poses a health risk for people within the household.

The animal abuse and reporting position statement has been revised to show that the profession understands and recognizes the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. As such, veterinarians have an obligation to take an active role in detecting, preventing, and reporting animal abuse.

The AAHA supports adoption of legislation requiring veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse, so long as those involved are exempt from liability for reporting. The association also recognizes that veterinary hospital team members need formal education on recognizing, documenting, and reporting animal abuse.

The AAHA euthanasia position statement has been amended to reflect the association's belief that no adoptable animal should be the victim of convenience euthanasia. The AAHA is committed to reducing the number of healthy pets euthanatized each year and asserts that veterinarians have a responsibility to improve the situation, which includes increased client education.

In addition, euthanasia must be pain- and anxiety-free and performed with a sense of dignity for the animal.

The AAHA position statements are posted online at