The RSPCA has reported a 236 per cent increase in the number of reports of dogs with cropped ears, after reporting 178 incidents of cropped ears between 2015 and 2019.
The charity is backing a petition from a dog trainer and welfare campaigner calling for a ban on importing dogs who have had their ears cropped.
The practice of cropping a dog’s ear was made illegal in England and Wales by the Animal Welfare Act in 2006. However, it is still legal in other parts of the world, including the US and some European countries. According to the RSPCA, there have been concerns that more and more dogs are being sent abroad for cropping, and then being bought and imported back to England.
The RSPCA said people who crop dogs’ ears could be encouraged to do so by what they see on social media. “Staff who investigate complaints of the illegal practice fear that celebrity culture, images shared on social media - especially from abroad where the practice is unregulated - and an increase in bull breeds seen in advertising is normalising the look and making it more popular,” it said in a post on its website.
The RSPCA is supporting a petition led by dog trainer and animal rights activist Jordan Shelley, which calls on the government to ban the importation of dogs with cropped ears. More than 8,300 people have signed the petition so far.
Shelley said: "There appears to be an alarming rise in dogs imported after undergoing the inhumane procedure of having their ears mutilated, fulfilling the desire for a certain 'look' and encouraging a procedure outlawed in England since 1899. It's time to close this 121-year-old legal loophole.
"An import ban could be possible under trade rules. There are companies that specifically import dogs with cropped ears for UK owners, fuelling cruelty abroad.
"It's time to make imports illegal, raise awareness of the cruelty around cropped dogs and advise the public not to support those that use cropped dogs in advertising and on social media, as they're inadvertently promoting this painful practice."
Dr Samantha Gaines, the RSPCA’s dog welfare expert, said cropping a dog’s ears is “painful and unnecessary” and did not benefit the dog in any way. She added that the practice could harm the dog’s “health, behaviour and welfare”.
"While we do have concerns that ear cropping is being carried out illegally, and underground, in this country, we suspect that the majority of dogs with cropped ears are being sent abroad to have the procedure done or are being bought and imported deliberately from countries with less stringent animal welfare laws and regulations than here,” she said.
"Dogs should never be mutilated for cosmetic purposes and, while this practice has been illegal in this country for a long, long time, we'd like to see more regulation to ensure that it's no longer possible to get a cropped dog in England and Wales unless rescuing through a reputable organisation."
If anyone is concerned that someone might be involved cropping dogs’ ears or sending dogs abroad for the procedure, they can report it to the RSPCA by calling 0300 1234 999.