Monday, September 5, 2011

Zazu's Ears

Take a look at Zazu's left ear. (Her left, your right)
A warning: This is not my usual warm-and-fuzzy post. Its content may be disturbing to sensitive readers.

Our next foster, Zazu, has arrived. But before she even got here, my colleague, Amanda, pointed out something in Zazu's shelter pictures. She seemed to have slits cut into her big, floppy ears. 

We started to put the pieces together. First, Zazu was from a rural shelter in Virginia. Second, she is, without a doubt, a hunting dog. (Although I don't know what she is for sure, I'm labeling her as a Treeing Walker Coonhound mix.) With that, we started to Google terms like "ear marking" and "ear tagging."

The notch on her left ear went straight through;
the notch on the right ear is in the same location,
but didn't seem to go all the way through the skin.
Now I've heard of tagging animals to track their migration. I've also seen tattoos inked into the inside of laboratory dogs' ears. But I've never seen slits like this before. From my research, I believe this is what hunters call "ear notching." It's used to identify dogs of a particular hunter's pack. (It's more commonly used with pigs. It's also used to identify feral cats that have been spayed/neutered.)

If we were talking about piercing/marking/tattooing a dog's ears under sterile conditions where the animal feels little to no pain, this would be a different story. But I happened upon web sites and message boards where hunters discuss ear marking/notching/branding, including this board from about branding. I hope they are the minority, but I fear they are not. 

One poster said, "Microchips may be state of the art, but a brand can be seen by all and a theft deterrent in itself. At the very least, if a branded dog gets stolen the sorry SOB gets a reminder every time he looks at the dog that the dog isn't his." 

Another poster asks if other hunters sedate the dogs at the vet, themselves, or just hold them down. One reply says, "We've always just held them down without sedation, they'll whine a bit, but it isn't too bad." 

Another reply puts it bluntly: "I 'juice' them, and cut nuts at the same time if they need it. 'Juice' makes things much easier, for branding and castration." (By juice, I'm assuming he means liquor.)

And then there's the site in which a hunter describes in detail how he brands his dogs. His message to "animal huggers" seem to be written just for me: "You animal huggers can already quit your whining about how much it must hurt, and that's why they struggle when they are being branded, and all of that whiny baby garbage. If you were going to PM me about what an a$$ I am to do that to a dog, and it ought to be done to me, save it. I'm telling you from experience that it don't hurt. I wear the same iron as my dogs - I belong to them as much as they belong to me. They'd give their life for me; to return the favor is the least I could do."

Well, I have a few responses to the conglomerate of posters I have quoted here. First off, I'd like to see YOU merely "liquored" up, have a brand scolded into your ear, then have your nuts cut off. Then I'd like you to tell me that "it don't hurt."

Second, sir(s), I am the "SOB" who "gets a reminder every time he looks at the dog that the dog isn't his." You're right. Zazu isn't mine. In fact, she was found sleeping in a roadside ditch with her sister nearly starved to death. After that, she spent 3 months in a shelter. Perhaps you could have claimed her then if she was such an important member of your pack. 

And now she is currently napping next to me on my bed in suburban New Jersey. I look down at her ear and I'm reminded she's not mine because I would never do such a thing to a dog. She's not mine; I'm taking care of her because I care about dogs, and I care about her. She's not mine; I'm just glad she's no longer yours. 


  1. We are currently fostering a treeing walker coonhound who also has slits in her ears. I did not realize the possible reason why she has these. Ugh! Glad that Zuzu has made it to a safe place.

  2. We fostered a feist who was a squirrel dog who had a slit in one of her ears. it kept bleeding when she played hard.

    effing small balled ignorant backwoods....

  3. Poor sweet girlie! I'm glad she's safe with you!

  4. I haven't seen those slits in ears like that before - that's very sad! Thank you for saving this sweet girl.

  5. I found a chiweenie with the same kind of cuts on both ears (also in rural va). I had no idea what it was until I called animal control to let them know I found him and they said "vets around here notch the dogs ears when they get fixed or for identity purposes" well he's not fixed and it seems nobody is looking for him!! People are so mean sometimes!

  6. Came across this post after googling "notches in beagle's ears" to try to figure out if my rescued beagle's ear notches might be related to hunting. My beagle also came from rural Virginia and your post only further convinces me that the notches are in fact from being in the "care" of hunters. Poor thing. I'd really like to give hunters a piece of my mind.

  7. The notch in my beagle's ear is a constant reminder of why I am glad he IS my dog, now!

  8. Really people? I have a rescue with notches. I also have hogs. Both have ear doesn't reAlly hurt them.get over it n there is not difference from notching n ear piercing

  9. We just adopted a 18month old Dacshund. Both ears notched and he has a
    tattoo down by his 'member'. These were done prior to his rescue by some
    mental midget. We cannot fathom why ....... by who ?? The WSPA says it is
    to protect a community from STRAYS. I can't accept that a Government
    agency condones this. My little guy is very safe now.