In January 2009, the Pennsylvania House passed a law on what supporters of the law call cruelty to animals. This law was a knee-jerk reaction to the slaughter of 80 dogs by Ammon and Elmer Zimmerman, breeders in Berks County, Pennsylvania. At the time it was perfectly legal to kill your dog in Pennsylvania. Rather than address this issue, the House went after the “cruelty issue.”
This supposed cruelty comes from cutting off tails and dew claws and cutting off the ears of Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes and any other dog that is recognized for these characteristics. These particular breed characteristics are what the American Kennel Club considers standard breed characteristics. In other words, when a Doberman is displayed, the dog is expected to meet the required standards, including pricked ears, docked tail, and no dew claws.
You can certainly show a Doberman or other breed that is not trimmed and mated, but the dog will not be a very successful show champion. Winning dog shows is how breeders demonstrate the value of their livestock 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 a lot of pain in the ring.
The basis of the law states that any dog owner must be able to demonstrate that the ear cropping and the extraction of dew tails and claws were performed by a veterinarian. Therefore, if you are walking down the street and a humane society officer or animal cruelty officer sees your Doberman or Boxer with its ears cropped and its tail docked, you may be fined a summary infraction, unless you have a certificate stating that a veterinarian did the work. If the harvest / spring was done before this law went into effect, you must show a certificate from your county treasurer stating this. In Pennsylvania, you must pay $ 1.00 for this certificate.
There are several problems with this new law. It is unclear how it will be handled if you have a clipped / docked dog that you obtained from a rescue or shelter. Documentation is unlikely to be available indicating when the procedure was performed or if it was performed by a veterinarian. The law states that you will not be fined if tails and dew claws are done within 5 days of birth. If an animal cruelty officer or humane society officer sees the puppy before it is cured, that is considered proof of a violation of the law. If the breeder is to make spray tails and claws, records should be kept. The law does not specify what type of registration or what is necessary to be exempt from being charged with a summary offense.
Rather than address the real issues, politicians who made headlines and searched for photographs decided to go after innocent amateur breeders and non-commercial breeders. This is twisted politics at its finest. Unless you are a large, money-making breeding operation, there is no way you can continue to raise your dogs. This means that smaller, more personal and less competitive breeders can no longer produce litters of these certain breeds. Good and respectable breeders do not decide at random which dog they want to breed. They get involved in breeding Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, German Pinschers, and other trimmed or mated breeds because they really love that specific dog and everything that breed stands for.
Many states are passing similar laws regarding this issue. This will eventually eliminate the smaller breeders or hobbyists entirely. This is really sad.