Photographer Gives Rescue Dogs Their Ears Back With the Help of AI

A dog with cropped ears
Junior. Original photo, left, edited with DALL-E, right.

A photographer has digitally reversed the cruel practice of ear cropping dogs with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

Sophie Gamand used AI image generator DALL-E to rebuild the ears of shelter dogs who had their ears chopped off before arriving at a humane society.

“I have been taking photos of adoptable dogs in shelters across the U.S. (and abroad) for over a decade,” she tells PetaPixel. “The portraits I used are part of those archives.”

a dog with cropped ears
a dog with cropped ears

Gamand says that she has long considered the practice of mutilating dogs’ ears “absurd and cruel” and when thinking of how she could use AI to spotlight shelter dogs she decided to use the technology to give them their ears back.

“I used DALL-E. It wasn’t particularly difficult but the results could be hit or miss,” she explains.

“The photo needed to be clear and the angle easy to work with. When I used people’s own photos, I struggled a bit more than when I used my studio portraits.”

To create the images, Gamand erased the dogs’ cropped ears on DALL-E and typed in a text prompt, in this case “dog ear”, and then clicked generate after which she was presented with four different options to choose from.

a dog with cropped ears
a dog with cropped ears
a dog with cropped ears

Gamand was inundated with requests from people who wanted her to “add ears” to their adopted dogs.

“I really didn’t expect that. These people shared they had always wondered how their dogs might have looked like with their natural ears,” she says.

“Some became very emotional when I sent them the results. I spent a week retouching hundreds of images until I was all eared out. It’s been a fun and touching project.”

a dog with cropped ears
a dog with cropped ears

Why is Cropping Dogs’ Ears Cruel?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes the ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes.

“One of the top reasons people crop their dogs’ ears, is because they are under the impression that it will prevent ear infections. This has not been proven,” Gamand writes on her website.

“Another argument is to prevent ear injury, particularly with working dogs. But this argument seems weak considering most working dogs have intact ears…Moreover, most dogs today are pets and not working dogs.”

a dog with cropped ears
a dog with cropped ears

The biggest reason for ear cropping appears to be purely for looks — to make dogs look more intimidating.

“It is rooted in traditions of blood sports such as bull-baiting and bear-baiting,” Gamnd continues.

“There are various types of crops: the long crop, the show crop, the short crop, and the shortest one called the battle crop, where the ears are cropped very close to the skull, which can lead to serious health issues.

“The battle crop is routinely seen on dogs who end up in rescue. The ear canals are exposed to the elements and debris, and these dogs may suffer ear infections because of this.”

a dog with cropped ears
a dog with cropped ears

However, the American Kennel Club still recognizes that ear cropping “as prescribed in certain breed standards are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character,” according to a press release from 2008 which remains on its website.

“Perhaps the cruelest aspect of ear cropping, is that it robs dogs of one of their most important communication tools,” adds Gamand.

The photographer points out that dogs need their ears for picking out where a sound is coming from and to communicate with other dogs and humans.

“Many dogs have intricate and complex social lives, meeting dogs during their walks and at the dog park, living in humans’ homes and having to contend with children, and more,” she adds.

“Cropping ears is akin to tying someone’s hands behind their back and making them approach someone in silence.”

More of Gamand’s work can be found on her website, Instagram, and Patreon.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.