Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lend me your ear

Back in India, when we were kids, towards the end of one school year, a puppy wandered into our compound and made himself home there.  We kids loved the sight of a puppy, of course.  The traditional, and orthodox, household we were, the puppy had to remain outside.  Mother gave him food and he was happy.  Once, when she gave him something to eat, the fellow--as small as he was--scratched the dirt and tried to bury the food for later, which amused me to no extent.

A few days later, it was time for us kids to head to grandma's village for the summer break.  We packed the bags into the car, which my parents sold soon after the oil shock of the early 1970s.  The car started rolling out of the compound on to the road.  The puppy darted after. The car picked up speed, and the puppy tried to keep up but could not.  It was an emotional moment.

When we returned to get back to school, there was no puppy.  The gut-wrenching emotion is why I remember that even after all these years.

Much later in life, here in America, life was with dogs at home.  There was no doubt about which of the two was the awesomely lovable fellow--he seemed to lack even one mean muscle in his small body.  As awesome as he was, I always regretted that the owners of his mother had docked his tail even when he was a mere few weeks old pup.

I do not understand the fascination with docking dogs' tails or cropping their ears.  How awful!  Dog breeders and owners continue with this cruelty because, well, there is no real law against it, even though the animal health professionals oppose these practices:
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) oppose these procedures, with the AVMA stating that these procedures "are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient," and "these procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection."  
At least some countries are sensible enough: "cosmetic tail-docking is banned throughout Australia and in numerous parts of Europe."  Here in the US?
As of 2014, only two states, Maryland and Pennsylvania, have any restrictions on tail-docking, focusing on the dog’s age at the time of surgery and the use of anesthesia. Only nine states regulate ear cropping. 
You don't even had to have enjoyed the company of a dog for you to visualize a happy dog wagging its tail, right?  But, when its tail is docked?
Numerous studies find that tails are (gasp) useful and meaningful in dog-dog communication (more formally known as intraspecific communication, or communication between members of the same species). Even Charles Darwin recognized that tail up has a different meaning than tail down, and dogs attend to long tails better than short ones. The side of the body that a tail wags can even be informative to another dog: a dog seen wagging more to his right-side would be perceived more positively than a dog wagging more to his left. A stump is less informative. 
Imagine doing anything similar to a fellow human!  Animal rights is not merely about killing them for food or for sport.  Animal rights extend to such aspects too.
Since 2008, the American Veterinary Medical Association has encouraged “the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.” Who is going to stand with them?
It is a mad, mad, mad, world!


Ramesh said...

Completely lost as to why anybody would want to dock a dog's tail. As you note, the wagging of the tail must surely be one of the things that brings happiness to a dog owner. Where is the "cosmetic" in removing that ?

As a complete aside , one of the things an experienced driver on Indian roads looks at is a dog's tail when it is about to dart across the road. If its tail is tucked between its legs, its sure to go halfway and run right back. If its upright, its going to march on irrespective of a 20 tonner nearing upon it. Drive accordingly and you won't run over the poor thingy. So the tail has other uses too :)

Anne in Salem said...

Can't say I understand docking the tails either. I'm not sure I've ever seen cropped ears, but that seems nonsensical as well.

Tail wagging brings smiles to anyone near, not just to the owner.

Sriram Khé said...

That is not at all an aside, Ramesh. Dogs use their tail to communicate not only to other dogs but to us humans too. Of course, the street dogs have their tails, unlike some of the canines kept as pets at home.

You haven't seen cropped ears, Anne? You are lucky to have been spared that sight.

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