Here’s at least one example of the culture getting more ethical. It might not seem like much, but ask a Jack Russell Terrier, and you’ll understand.
Gradually, dog owners and breeders are stopping the practice of docking—that is, cutting—the ears and tails of puppies so they conform to arbitrary breed standards. The reason is simple: it is cruel and pointless, and the dogs look just as good, indeed better, the natural way.
I first noticed this trend years ago when I saw this breed at a dog show:
I had no idea what it was. I asked, was told it was a natural example of the breed I was used to seeing this way…
Yes, it’s a Great Dane. In recent years, fewer and fewer owners are opting for the ear operation, allowing the breed to keep the ears that reflect its English Mastiff ancestry.
This beautiful, loving, smart breed dog usually has both its tale and its ears cropped, the tail down to a nub:
Why? Well, this look was considered scarier, I guess…
Now I am seeing more natural Doberman Pinschers with ears unclipped and long tails, assisting the breed in its PR makeover as it gradually loses the vicious dog reputation (as opposed to “favorite dog of vicious people”) it had for decades to the unjustly maligned pit bull breeds.
My dog, Rugby, is a Jack Russell Terrier. Members of that Irish breed traditionally had their tails docked for what was once a practical reason: the dogs were bred as rabbit hunters, and are so stubborn that they have been known to go down a hole and starve waiting for the rabbit to come to it. The shortened tails are called “handles,” and allow an owner to grab the dog and pull it out of the hole without hurting it.
However, since Rugby jointed our household, a sensible and humane shift has occurred. Increasingly, Jack breeders aren’t docking the tails, so the dogs look like this:
…with the beagle-like tail intact. (Beagles are part of the marvelous brew that gave the world these hilarious, merry, disturbingly smart and independent dogs.)
So you see? At least in some corners of the dog breeding world, ethics is moving in the right direction.
That’s something to hold on to in these depressing times.