New Animal Welfare Resolutions for Alberta Veterinarians

boxer dog sitting in grass
Certain dog breeds such as Doberman Pinschers commonly have their ears altered to stand upright (cropped) and tails shortened (docked), while show dogs are also often subject to cosmetic dental procedures to meet breed standards.

You may have heard in recentnewsthat the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) passed two new resolutions regarding animal welfare. The first resolution “obligates veterinarians and veterinary technologists to report cases of animal abuse and neglect, and to take action to address animals in distress”. The second resolution “recommends a ban on all unnecessary medical/surgical procedures”. I thought I would discuss this second resolution in this month’s Properties Animal Clinicveterinary blog.Medical and surgical procedures that are considered unnecessary include cosmetic procedures; any procedure that is done to alter the look of an animal but has no basis in improving the health or well-being of that animal.

close up of cat paw showing declawing
Alberta’s new veterinary rules ban the practice of declawing cats.

New List of Banned Veterinary Procedures in Alberta

  1. Declawing, tendonectomy, and partial digital amputation – declawing of cats or cutting the tendons that allow a cat to extend their claws for scratching, and amputation of parts of the digits for cosmetic reasons.
  2. Tail docking, nicking, blocking and setting – any tail docking of animals (popular among certain breeds of dogs) for aesthetic/functional purposes and nicking, blocking and setting procedures used on horses to alter the carriage of their tails.
  3. Ear cropping – cutting and setting of dogs’ ears to allow the ears to stand upright.
  4. Cosmetic dentistry – unliketherapeutic pet dentistry which is important for the overall health of the animal, cosmetic dentistry alters an animal’s dentition to meet breed standards.
  5. Body piercing – any piercing of flesh to allow ornamentation with jewellery.
  6. Tattooing, other than for identification/registration – any type of tattooing that is for ornamental decoration.
  7. Debarking / Devocalization – surgical procedures that alter the vocal cords of a dog to prevent it from barking or vocalizing.
dog with wet fur howling
Debarking or devocalization procedures are sometimes done to dogs to eliminate the sound of unwanted vocalizations.

Reasons Why These Banned Veterinary Procedures are Done

  • Some of these procedures are done to meet breed standards for competition or show. These include ear cropping, tail docking and cosmetic dentistry in dogs. The breed standards also include natural states for ears and tails therefore cropping and docking are not mandatory but may be preferred. In the Legislative Policy Statements of The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) it states “Breeders of purebred dogs continue this practice for not only historical reasons but also to promote safety in performance activities and to promote hygienic animal husbandry”. The argument from breeders and the CKC is that they should have the choice and veterinarians should be able to provide these procedures in a safe and controlled environment.
  • There is also an argument put forward for tail docking in some of the working/sporting dog breeds as a way to prevent injury. In the process of working, these dogs can injure/break their tails by hitting them on trees or hard objects.
  • Procedures like body piercing and ornamental tattooing are only done for aesthetic reasons and are requested by owners.
  • Debarking and declawing are usually requested to control behaviours that are considered problematic by owners. In cats, declawing is usually done to prevent damage to furniture or injury from scratches, and debarking is aimed at eliminating unwanted vocalizations in dogs.
Show horses sometimes have their tails “set” to appear more upright.

Reasons for the ABVMA Recommendation 

As veterinarians, it is our job to promote the health and welfare of animals. Any medical orsurgical veterinary proceduresthat are invasive will inevitably inflict pain. We do our best to minimize pain by providing anesthesia and pain relief medications for these procedures. Most of the time these procedures are done to treat a medical/surgical problem and the goal of the procedure is to reduce pain and suffering in the long term. With cosmetic procedures, however, there is no benefit to the health or well being of the animal, so the animal endures pain and suffering only to alter its appearance.

dog tail, example of tail docking
The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) recently voted to support a ban on unnecessary cosmetic procedures such as tail docking.

The arguments for ear cropping and tail docking do not justify the pain and suffering that the pet is subjected to. It can also be argued that cropping of a dog’s ears or tail will negatively affect its’ ability to properly communicate with other dogs. The argument that docking a working dogs’ tail to prevent a future injury is not supported by research studies. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association quotes a study in its position statement that concludes, “tail docking does not provide sufficient protection against injury to justify tail docking of all animals” because the risk of injury to any one animal is quite low.

Declawing of cats to prevent scratching behaviours may lead to chronic pain and increased aggression. Debarking dogs is a surgical procedure that involves risks for complication and exposes the dog to unnecessary pain. Both destructive cat scratching and dog debarking can be altered withpet behaviour modification and training.Painful surgical procedures are not the only option to deal with these behavioural issues.

Support of the New ABVMA Resolutions

On February 24th 2019, Alberta veterinarians joined six other provinces and many other countries in supporting these new resolutions. By placing a ban on these procedures we believe that it will improve the welfare of animals in our care by preventing exposure to unnecessary pain and suffering. If you need more information on alternatives to these banned veterinary procedures please feel free tocall and make an appointment.Our staff would be happy to discuss options with you.

bulldog waling in grass with ears docked
This Dogo Canario’s ears have been altered.


  1. ABVMA Press Release:
  3. Photo courtesy of: