AVMA policy opposing cosmetic procedures reaffirmed by HOD

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AVMA policy on "Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs" remains intact after the AVMA House of Delegates disapproved changes to its wording.

At the HOD's regular annual session July 10 in Seattle, approximately 75 percent of delegates voted against an amendment proposed by the Utah VMA to retract the AVMA's stated opposition to the procedures.

Dr. Roddy C. Sharp, Utah delegate, said the amendment was introduced to bring the issue up for debate before the house.

Dr. Sharp
Dr. Roddy C. Sharp, Utah delegate, argues for amending the AVMA policy "Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs" at the House of Delegates' regular annual session.

In November 2008, the AVMA Executive Board amended the policy to state that the AVMA opposes these procedures when done solely for cosmetic purposes. In addition, the amended policy encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.

Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, said the Animal Welfare Committee recommended the Association oppose the procedure on the basis of policy history and scientific questions.

"In 1976, the policy the HOD passed said action should be taken to eliminate ear cropping and tail docking," Dr. Golab said. She added that this was the AVMA's original policy on the issue, and although there have been interim changes to the policy's wording, the AVMA has consistently not supported performing the procedures for cosmetic purposes.

When reviewing the policy this past year, she said the AWC was unable to identify any science-based benefit of the procedures for dogs.

"There aren't a lot of peer-reviewed data in the literature on these procedures; however, when the committee reviewed the data that were available, it did not suggest there were benefits for dogs when ear cropping and tail docking are performed for cosmetic purposes," Dr. Golab said.

The Utah VMA's resolution acknowledged the lack of a therapeutic basis for the procedures but stated it is imperative that any ear cropping or tail docking be performed by veterinarians using current standards of care.

Dr. Warner P. McFarland, Wyoming alternate delegate, echoed this sentiment at the HOD session in Seattle.

"If veterinarians aren't allowed to do this procedure, I don't see where it's in their best interest to have laypeople doing this. Until it's illegal, it's something veterinarians should be able to do," he said.

Dr. Theodore J. Cohn, District IX Executive Board representative and liaison to the AWC, said he spoke informally with representatives from AVMA PLIT and the Judicial Council. They told him these procedures are not determined to be unethical or illegal so there's no liability to veterinarians who perform ear cropping or tail docking, even with the current policy intact.

Nontheless, Banfield, The Pet Hospital, announced in late July that it has discontinued ear cropping and tail docking surgeries on dogs for cosmetic purposes.

The company, which has more than 730 veterinary hospitals in the U.S., said the decision was made with the overall health and wellness of pets in mind, and that it had been under consideration for a while. The change in medical protocol was approved by Banfield's Medical Standards Board, an internal panel of veterinarians responsible for evaluating medical standards and procedures.