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Dogs Don’t Need Facelifts

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Dogs Don’t Need Facelifts

From The National Humane Education Society (NHES)
March 2013

Animals can’t pass on their surgically enhanced features to their offspring, so surgery doesn’t help improve the breed. It only helps the person win. We also question the ethics of forcing an animal to undergo an unnecessary surgery, or several surgeries, when there is always a possibility of complications. But the overall health of animals is rarely at the forefront of a breeder’s mind.

Over many generations of breeding, humans have shaped and altered domestic animals to fit our standards of beauty. What began as breeding for a dog who could follow a scent or a horse who could comfortably carry a rider is now wrapped up in pride and money. We have large shows to determine whose animal best fits our standards; The Westminster Kennel Club dog show being an example. There are also shows for horses, cats, rabbits, chickens, and practically any other domesticated animal imaginable. Most of those animals are carefully cared for and kept in optimal health: they are fed regular meals, are groomed often, and get exercised regularly. But while animal care can look great on the surface, it doesn’t always seem that the exhibitors’ hearts are in the right place.

A recent news story highlights a veterinarian who performs plastic surgery on show dogs. He boasts the ability to fix floppy ears that are supposed to stand as well as performing facelifts, eyebrow corrections, and wrinkle reductions. In the past, similar stories have come to light in the horse and cat showing world. These surgeries are against the rules, but it doesn’t stop the competitors who are willing to do what it takes to get ahead.

With stories like these, we can’t help but wonder if conformation showers and breeders are looking out for animals or for themselves. Animals can’t pass on their surgically enhanced features to their offspring, so surgery doesn’t help improve the breed. It only helps the person win. We also question the ethics of forcing an animal to undergo an unnecessary surgery, or several surgeries, when there is always a possibility of complications. But the overall health of animals is rarely at the forefront of a breeder’s mind.

Many of the breed standards are exaggerated and unnaturally contorted. As breeders work toward their own goals, the very shapes and features they select cause health problems.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s skull is carefully shaped for optimal cuteness. As a result, some dogs’ brains cannot fit neatly within the skull causing a serious disease called Syringomyelia. The American Quarter Horse is bred for hulking muscles. In the quest for this look, a genetic disease called Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP) ran rampant throughout the breed until very recently when efforts were made to stop its continued breeding. Affected horses suffer muscle tremors, paralysis, and sometimes death.

The list of domestic animals negatively affected by breeding for “perfection” goes on and on.

If animal breeders and exhibitors aren’t motivated by the welfare and health of their animals, what does motivate these people? There are lots of answers, and unfortunately few of them include the animals. They may be motivated by money in the form of stud fees and animal sales. Perhaps they are motivated by pride; everything they do is for that blue ribbon and the prestige that comes with it. Others may be driven to create their ideal animal, sculpting bone structure and other features throughout generations.

But hasn’t nature already sculpted an ideal animal—one that is built for survival and optimal health?