A celebrity dog seller has said cropping the ears of its animals is so they do not get ripped during fights, as the government considers a ban on the "abhorrent mutilation".
Protection Dogs Worldwide has sold dogs to celebrities including former glamour model Katie Price and Love Island star Jack Fincham, and Dane Rashford, the brother of Manchester United star Marcus, has been spotted scouting out pets at the Yorkshire kennels.
All the Cane Corso and Doberman breeds it sells have cropped ears, a painful procedure which involves removing almost the whole outside of the pet's ear before it is sold. Cropping dog ears is illegal in the UK, but importing dogs with cropped ears is not.
Cutting a dog's ears off is sometimes done to make them look more menacing, and it has certainly become a trend in recent years. Marcus Rashford has a large black Cane Corso called Saint, which has clipped ears, and Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix proudly flaunts her earless large bulldog breed.
Other footballers Jesse Lingard and James Maddison also show off their cropped dogs. There is no suggestion any of these celebrities acted illegally or knew the dogs were cropped when they bought them.
Leedor Borlant, the director of Protection Dogs Worldwide said they buy in dogs with cropped ears from abroad.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: "None of our dogs are cropped in the U.K. and none of our dogs are sent to be cropped. Every dog we have is an import, what we do is 100 per cent within the law and I am fully aware of the legalities behind it and we don’t break any laws."
Mr Borlant said that the cropping allows dogs to escape unscathed from fights, explaining: "We have never ever had to take a dog to the vets here with an issue with a dog that’s cropped or has a docked tail, yet we have been multiple times with dogs who hurt the end of the tail or ears through working, it then infects, then progresses onto to other issues."
The British Veterinary Association and the RSPCA have been lobbying the government to make it essentially illegal to own a dog with cropped ears, by banning imports. They argue that it provides a cover for breeders to implement the painful procedure.
Companies based in the UK, like Protection Dogs Worldwide, import animals from countries such as Russia where the practice is legal, and train the dogs to guard their celebrity owners. They sell for tens of thousands of pounds.
The government is currently considering a ban, after declaring the practice an "abhorrent mutilation".
Mr Borlant said that if this ban takes place, it is likely unscrupulous breeders will do the operation illegally instead of getting it done by a vet abroad.
He explained: "The banning of allowing cropped dogs in to the U.K. I believe will mean more people in the U.K. will continue to do it illegally and not correctly."