WSAVA condemns physical alteration of animals for cosmetic or behavioural control reasons

 physical alteration of animals for cosmetic or behavioural control reasons
WSAVA AWC chair Dr Heather Bacon

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has produced a position statement, expressing its opposition to the physical alteration of an animal’s body for cosmetic or behavioural control reasons. It also calls on veterinary teams to educate their clients regarding the harm that these procedures can cause and counsel them as to how to improve their animals’ welfare and living conditions.

With ‘cosmetic mutilations’ a growing problem in many parts of the world, even in countries where they are illegal, such as the UK and many European countries, WSAVA’s Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) has prepared the position statement to highlight the problem and support the many national veterinary associations which have already initiated their own campaigns. It also hopes to encourage other associations and kennel clubs to phase out breed standards that support cosmetic mutilation and, instead, to take a health-focused approach to these standards.

In its statement, WSAVA expresses concern at the prioritisation of convenience surgeries and cosmetic alterations over creating good behavioural, physical and emotional states for the animals concerned. It says this demonstrates a lack of recognition of the intrinsic value of animals as sentient beings and sends the message that they are commodities to be altered and exploited in line with human preferences.

The statement also confirms WSAVA’s opposition to onychectomy, devoicing, tail docking, ear cropping and other cosmetic surgeries. It says that, where procedures such as tail docking are deemed medically necessary (for example, as a response to recurrent tail injury or disease), appropriate anaesthesia and pain control must be utilised and the procedure performed by a veterinarian.

“Elective surgeries should not be performed simply to alter an animal’s appearance or behaviour based on human preferences or tradition,” WSAVA AWC chair Dr Heather Bacon said.

“A robust cost-benefit analysis and application of the evidence is always necessary to ensure the best health and welfare outcomes for our companion animals.

“All veterinarians have an ethical obligation to act in the best interests of their patients. We can all improve animal health and welfare outcomes by demonstrating leadership and evidence-based practice on these contentious issues, and by proactively engaging with communities to normalise and promote the value of healthy cats and dogs with intact toes, ears, tails and voices. We hope our position statement will support colleagues around the world in achieving this.”

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