Headline: Veterinarians should vote to outlaw inhumane cosmetic surgery on dogs Author: Holly Cheever Cosmetic surgeries on dogs - cropping ears and docking tails - may soon be history in the United States This month, the House of Delegates of the American Veterinary Medical association, the largest such group in the world, will vote on whether to adopt postion statements opposing these surgeries. The AVMA is responding to the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, which submitted hundreds of petitions signed by veterinarians nationwide asking it to oppose these practices to help guide the conduct of verinarians on this ethical issue. Many veterinarians already refuse to crop ears and dock tails, and some are actively campaigning to stop these unnecessary and disfiguring surgeries. These progressive veterinarians are following the leard of British kennel clubs, which outlawed ear cropping a century ago. Cosmetic tail docks were stopped in 1993 in Great Britain, thanks to British veterinarians, and many other European countires have enacted similar bans. Many veterinarians and most humane groups want these practices stopped for one simple reason: Canine ear crops and tail docks hurt. Painful post-surgical healing follows ear cropping, and the process of taping and retaping the pup's ears to a frame to force them to stand erect can be agonizing to the recovering animal. Anesthesia to prevent pain is rarely used for docking the tails of puppies only a few days old. The timing of ear crops is also controversial. The preferred age, 8 to 12 weeks, coincides with a period of development in which trauma can have a strong psychological impact on the maturing pup. Some veterinarians also object to the arbitrary removal of body parts used for communication, balance and the expression of a host of canine behavioral traits. Dogs "talk" to their human companions and each other with their ears and tails. Why perform medically unnecessary procedures that merely perpetuate the image of dogs as "fashion statements?" Not everyone is happy with the growing segment of the veterinary profession that wants to stop these outdated practices. Some purebred dog breeders believe that "their" breed will be ruined if it does not maintain the image handed down by parent breed clubs decades ago. They also argue that cropping or docking provide health benefits, namely saving a dog from having its tail damged and preventing ear infections. These arguments hold little water. If they did, veterinarians would crop the ears of cocker spaniels and poodles, and no dogs would have tails. Debate over the issue churns within the AVMA's committees. The association currently has no position statement on canine tail docking. Its position on ear cropping is vague and doesn not address the veterinarians's conduct. Sadly, many veterinarians see nothing wrong with mutilating an animal that does not need surgery, as long as there is a guardian demanding it and willing to pay for it. The American Kennel Club, whch could take a strong leadership role in eliminating these painful procedures, has washed its hand of the whole issue. It is time for the AVMA to take a stand against ear cropping and tail docking, regardless of fashion standards. The United States must join other progressive countries in eliminating these anachronistic and inhumane procedures. Surely, dogs deserve to be valued for their wonderful inherent characteristics. Bio: Veterinarian Holly Cheever is a board member of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, in Vacaville, Calif., and spokeswoman for the campaign to end ear cropping and tail docking in the United States. She wrote this for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.