Can Dogs Get Their Ears Pierced? [Is It Even Legal?]

dog with one ear up

Although dogs can get their ears pierced, it’s not recommended. Other than being illegal in a few states, there are some health concerns. Dogs are prone to ear infections. A pierced ear will increase the chances of an infection. The piercing may also cause the dog to rub, scratch, or itch at the location, which leads to further irritation.

Piercings play different roles in different cultures, but pierced ears are part of the norm for some cultures. As an example, in some cultures young children are forced to get their ears pierced because it’s “the thing to do”. But should dogs be involved in this piercing obsession? 

If you’re thinking about piercing your dog’s ears, there are a few things to consider. Is it even possible or feasible to safely pierce and maintain the dog’s ear? Is it legal? What are the potential consequences of doing so?

Is It Physically Possible to Pierce a Dog’s Ear?

A dog’s ear can be classified into several categories based on its shape. These categories include upright, rounded tip, bat, hooded, candle flame, drop, and folded. 

Within all these categories, the ear’s structure has an external portion, which varies in strength. The external portion of the ear is made up of auricular and annular cartilage, overlapped by skin, which is similar to humans. Considering the makeup of a dog’s cartilage, it technically can be pierced.

Is It Possible to Maintain a Dog Piercing?

Although all dogs have unique personality traits, they have similar behaviors. These behaviors may make it impossible to keep or maintain an ear-piercing. 

The act of piercing the ear could cause extreme discomfort, which will cause the dog to scratch at the ear, making the discomfort worse. 

There are ways to lessen the discomfort by keeping the area clean and not allowing the dog to scratch at the piercing, but unless an owner can continuously watch and supervise the dog, piercing is probably not a good idea.

Is It Legal to Pierce a Dog’s Ear?

Several laws can prevent and dissuade dog owners from engaging in certain activities. It is important to abide by the laws because they are in the dog’s best interest. Each state has different laws, so dog owners should know their state’s laws before piercing their dogs ears.

Are There States That Don’t Allow Ear Piercing?

Many states regulate dog care, including procedures like tail docking, ear cropping, and devocalization. One of the first states to enact legislation related to ear piercings was New York, which required that piercing a dog could only be done by a veterinarian for medical or identification purposes. 

Some States allow the county to create their own laws regarding animal safety. Either way, ear-piercing could be considered animal cruelty and may be illegal under the laws associated with the State or County. 

For example, the state of Pennsylvania had an incident where a woman pierced her cats and was charged with animal cruelty. So before you make any decisions, it’s important to become familiar with the laws of your State/County

Laws Help Protect Dogs

The state or the county can consider ear-piercing illegal based on a variety of factors. As with most laws or regulations, ones that dissuade certain activities relating to a dog’s care are done in the dog’s best interest. 

If it is determined that piercing a dog’s ear is worsening a dog’s quality of life or causing health issues, then a dog owner’s respective state or county could jump in to stop what they consider to be abuse or cruelty. 

Potential Consequences of Piercing a Dog’s Ears

Before piercing your dogs ears, it’s important to be aware of both the legal and health consequences.

Legal Consequences

If the state determines that ear piercing is illegal, there could be legal consequences in that state. Each state has different penalties. The consequences can range from a small fine to jail time.

A person would have to be reported as having a dog with an ear-piercing (e.g., to the ASPCA or local SPCA). Animal cruelty is determined based on the review of the case by the organization and/or officer. 

If a dog owner’s actions are determined to be “cruel and punishable”, they could face charges in the hundreds of dollars and/or 90 days in jail. 

This may eventually fall under the PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act, which is a federal law that makes certain forms of animal cruelty (e.g., crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, or sexually exploitation) a felony. 

Health Consequences

Piercing a dog’s ear can lead to several health issues. These issues range from very minor to severe. Piercing the ear can lead to irritation and swelling. This alone can cause serious issues because it may cause the dog to rub or scratch the area. 

Rubbing or scratching the pierced area can lead to further irritation, infection, or injury. The constant irritation could prevent the piercing from healing. 

If the ear becomes infected, a trip to the vet is required ASAP to prevent the infection from becoming worse. 

Through the process of rubbing or scratching, the dog may also harm themselves by ripping out the piercing, which would affect the structure of the ear and there would be a potential need for stitches.

Dog Piercings Are Not Worth it

Although it may be physically possible to pierce a dog’s ear(s), it may not be the best decision. Piercing a dog’s ears could cause health issues or be considered cruel and/or illegal in some states. 

It is also important to note that a dog’s lifestyle could prevent the piercing from healing. Potential health issues associated with piercing your pet could involve infection or injury. 

Depending on where you live, you may face legal consequences for piercing your dog’s ears. For example, an extreme case of animal piercing was considered abusive in Pennsylvania, which ultimately prompted New York to enact specific legislation outlawing it if it did not serve a medical purpose. 

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