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Courtesy of Mallika Seshadri

Courtesy of Mallika Seshadri

Story by Mallika Seshadri, Assistant Opinion Editor

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When I was little, I often visited my aunt who lives in Boston. At the time, she had two majestic, gentle and lovable collies. Like so many dogs, they were easily excited and eager to express themselves through ecstatic and sometimes longing barking that we humans find incomprehensible.

One of the two, Frega, had no trouble expressing himself. Russell, on the other hand, would try to bark. But nothing would come out. I often wondered why. I eventually learned that Russell was a show dog who, as punishment for barking at the wrong time, became deprived of his voice. His vocal cords were removed.

I’d love to believe this unethical and cruel treatment that Russell endured was more of an anomaly, but it isn’t, especially in competitions such as the Westminster Dog Show that was held last week in New York City. In preparation for such events, which showcase dogs’ cuteness, beauty and ability to adhere to human desires, dogs are often physically violated and mistreated.

In events like dog shows, it is not uncommon to spot a dog with a stubbed tail–which humans removed because they are thought it would be “cuter” without one. In fact, puppies usually have their tails removed through a process called tail docking “surgically or with a constricting band” during their “first five days of life,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Other dogs have weights attached to the tops of their ears as puppies, allowing their ears to droop in a manner that many think gives the little beings an adorable quality, which Frega (my aunt’s other dog) had to endure at a young age.

The American Veterinary Association asserts that humans also like to more severely modify dogs’ ears for cosmetic purposes through ear cropping. They state “some dogs…in the United States customarily have their ears reduced with a blade or scissors to modify, or in some cases, allow a naturally drooping ear to stand upright.” The American Veterinary Association is not alone in their vehement opposition to ear cropping as the American Animal Hospital Association has maintained the same stance along with other organizations.

According to the American Veterinary Association, the practices of ear cropping and tail docking are very prevalent, especially where dogs are made to have “a certain look,” according to Patterson-Kane who works for the association.

Dogs–and animals in general–are wrongfully used as forms of entertainment in a myriad of settings in our society. And, in many ways, these dog shows are reminiscent of child beauty pageants. However, they don’t receive the same level of criticism because people don’t value the lives of dogs, or other animals, as much as the lives of humans.

Dog breeding for such shows result in many consequences for the long-term welfare of dogs.
What many fail to notice is that in such mass breeding of dogs, which promotes elitist ideals of bloodlines and purity, different breeds of dogs have developed genetic problems as a result of inbreeding including “a higher risk of cancer and tumors; eye and heart disease; joint and bone disorders; skin, immune system, and neurological diseases; and even epilepsy,” according to petMD.

Many, however, insist these dogs are treated like kings and queens. But ask yourself: is the extra pampering and grooming solely out of love or is it to make their dog more prize-worthy in a competition based upon an already arbitrary criteria? Sadly, dog breeding for such shows is ultimately a business, and dogs wrongfully become a commodity.

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