The illegal practice of cropping dog's ears has doubled over the last year.
The RSPCA received 101 calls across the country last year related to ear cropping, a drastic increase on the 47 received in 2019.
GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
New figures show a 621% increase in the number of reports of ear cropping and cropped ears made to the animal welfare charity in the last six years.
From 2015 to 2020, the charity had a total of 279 reports of the practice made to its emergency hotline.
It is mostly done for cosmetic purposes, and often leads to a number of health problems.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Ear cropping is a barbaric practice that is illegal in England & Wales.
"But, worryingly, we are seeing an upturn in the number of reports being made to our cruelty line about dogs with cropped ears and we’re extremely concerned that this trend is becoming increasingly normalised, glamorised and popular.
“We fear that images being shared on social media and used within advertising as well as high-profile sports stars and celebrities buying dogs with cropped ears is making the look more popular and may be influencing others to do the same.”
Ear cropping is illegal in England and Wales, under Section 5 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, however the practice is still legal in other parts of the world such as the USA and some European countries.
There's a growing fear that more and more dogs are being sent abroad for cropping, or being purchased and imported from overseas.
The RSPCA is now working with dog trainer Jordan Shelley, who has launched a petition calling on the Government to ban the importation of dogs with cropped ears.
More than 44,000 people have already signed it but he hopes to hit 100,000 signatures before it closes tonight (February 6).
Passionate animal welfare enthusiast and comedian Ricky Gervais has also backed the petition and is urging the British public to sign.
He said: “It is horrific to think that something as barbaric as ear cropping still goes on. It causes these poor dogs so much suffering and it’s completely unnecessary.
"To think anyone would do this to an animal just for the sake of image is disgusting.
“I’d urge everyone to sign this petition so that no more dogs in this country have to go through this and have their health, behaviour or welfare affected in this way again.”
Two-year-old Cane Corso Jess is one such dog, being brought into an RSPCA centre malnourished and feeding six puppies.
Jess Norris, who has been taking care of Jess for months, said: “Her cropped ears have affected her in many ways, some that are obvious and some that aren’t.
"We believe she has ‘pain memory’ which has led to her being very sensitive to having her ears and head touched.
"She’s uncomfortable having her harness slipped over her head or a lead clipped on, and this has prolonged her muzzle training.
“She is more susceptible to ear infections and has had two in the time she’s been with us. She’s also incredibly sensitive to noise.
"We don’t know for sure but this may be as a result of a lack of protection compared to if her ears had been left intact.
"She’s also incredibly nervous around men and we believe she may have bad associations of men from her past.
“People and other dogs can struggle to read Jess’s body language as she has no ears and no tail to communicate with. Where we would normally look for relaxed ears to tell us she’s happy and comfortable, or a tail tucked between her legs to show she’s nervous, we have none of these signs.
"We also find that people judge her because of the way she looks and believe she may be aggressive which absolutely isn’t the case.”
RSPCA behaviour and welfare specialist Hannah Hawkins said: “Dogs rely on their ears and tails for lots of things, including communicating with people and other dogs, so losing this can make it difficult for them to indicate how they are feeling which can lead to behavioural problems.”