The cosmetic cropping of a dog's ears has been made illegal in Manitoba, but some breeders warn the ban will only push the practice underground and put dogs' health at risk.
The Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association banned the procedure as of Feb. 3 because it says ear cropping causes unnecessary pain to dogs.
Breeds commonly cropped include great danes, dobermans, schnauzers, boxers and miniature pinschers.
Breeders of dobermans and miniature pinschers say that removing the floppy part of the ear isn't just for looks.
Cindy Kowalchuk, who has been breeding pinschers for three decades, said cropping prevents injury when dogs fight.
"They're going to see a lot of torn ears, [and] how do you fix that, from a veterinarian's perspective? You cannot re-sew that ear," she said.
And cropping ears is far less invasive than spaying, she added, warning the ban will lead to more risky procedures being done by people who are not professionals.
"I think a lot of vets just aren't interested in taking the time and learning [to do the cropping]," Kowalchuk said.
"It's a very artistic procedure," she said. "You do have to have a very good eye to do this or you can ruin ears."
The bylaw is supported by the Winnipeg Humane Society, which has a policy in place to oppose the injury of animals for cosmetic purposes, said agency CEO Bill McDonald.
"We feel this bylaw is a very progressive step in what has been a very inhumane practice," he said.
Other Canadian provinces that have banned the practice are Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Veterinary medical associations are looking closely at creating similar bylaws in B.C. and Alberta.