At least five dogs have shown up at Salt Lake County Animal Services over the past few months, and each of them have had their ears cut off. Some were done with scissors, while on others, the severe wounds made it difficult to tell what tool was used.
Phoenix, a 4-month-old pit bull mix, was one of those dogs.
"When he arrived, his ears had been brutally scissored off of his head," says Melissa Lipani with Best Friends Animal Society.When Phoenix arrived at Salt Lake Animal Services about a week ago, his ears were swollen, bloody and infected -- all common signs of home ear cropping.
"It's a very disturbing trend that were seeing, especially when a dog like Phoenix comes in at such a young age and in such pain," says Lipani. "It's something that we're concerned about."
Home ear cropping is a painful practice that is done without anesthesia, antibiotics or post-operative medication. It's often done with scissors, razor blades or other sharp objects.
"It's very excruciating for these dogs to endure this type of procedure that is not done under any anesthesia or sterile procedure or pain control or anything like that," Lipani says.
Ear cropping is often done to make pit bull-type dogs look tougher or to prevent their ears from being ripped off in a fight. The procedure is legal when done by a licensed veterinarian, but illegal when done at home.
"For someone to be performing this in a backyard or in a back room of a house or basement and holding the dog down without anesthesia is animal cruelty," says Sgt. Zach Todd with Salt Lake County Animal Services.
Todd says if anyone is caught performing home ear cropping, they'll face charges ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a felony. He also says if they can tie the cropping to animal fighting, the punishment could be even worse.
"If the cropping on the ear is related to dog fighting and that connection can be made, felony charges could also be related to dog fighting," Todd says.
Animal advocates and law enforcement want to put a stop to this ear-cropping trend right away. They ask anyone who might witness it happening to call their local police department.