In January of 2009, the Pennsylvania House passed a law concerning what supporters of the law call cruelty to animals. This law was a knee-jerk reaction to the killing of 80 dogs by Ammon and Elmer Zimmerman, breeders in Berks County, Pennsylvania. At that time it was perfectly legal to kill your dog in Pennsylvania. Instead of addressing this issue, the House went after the “cruelty issue”.
This so called cruelty comes from docking tails and dew claws and cropping ears of Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, and any other dog that is recognized by these features. These particular breed features are what the American Kennel Club considers to be breed standard characteristics. In other words, when showing a Doberman, the dog is expected to meet the required standards, including ears that stand erect, a docked tail and no dew claws.
You can certainly show a Doberman or other breed that is not cropped and docked, but the dog will not be a very successful show champion. Winning dog shows is how breeders prove the worth of their stock and maintain the integrity of the breed. Champion dogs guarantee the care and quality of the breed lines. Until the American Kennel Club adjusts its standards, this new law will cause much grief in the show ring.
The basis of the law states that any dog owner must be able to prove that the ear cropping and tails and dew claw removal were done by a veterinarian. So, if you’re walking down the street and an humane society officer or animal cruelty officer sees your Doberman or Boxer with cropped ears and docked tails, you can be given a summary offense, unless you have a certificate that states a vet did the work. If the crop/dock was done before this law went into effect, you must show a certificate from your county treasurer stating this. In Pennsylvania, you have to pay $1.00 for this certificate.
There are several problems with this new law. It is not clear how it will be handled if you have a cropped/docked dog which you got from a rescue or a shelter. There is not likely to be any paperwork available that indicates when the procedure was done, or if it was done by a vet. The law states that you will not be fined if the tails and dew claws are done within 5 days of birth. If an animal cruelty officer or humane society officer sees the puppy before they are healed, that is considered proof of violation of the law. If the breeder is going to do the tails and dew claws, records must be kept. The law does not specify what type of record or what is necessary to be exempt from being charged with a summary offense.
Instead of addressing the real issues, the headline grabbing and photo-op seeking politicians decided to go after the innocent hobby breeders and non-commercial breeders. This is twisted politics at it’s best. Unless you are a big breeding operation that makes lots of money, there is no way you can continue to breed your dogs. This means the smaller, more personal, and less competitive breeders can no longer produce litters of these certain breeds. Good, reputable breeders do not just randomly decide which dog they want to breed. They get involved in breeding Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, German Pinschers and other cropped and, or docked breeds because they truly love that specific dog and everything that breed represents.
Many states are passing similar legislation regarding this issue. This will eventually completely eliminate smaller, or hobby breeders. This is truly sad.