For some reason, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has supported devocalization surgery for dogs and cats to silence them and the Executive Board is poised to vote to perpetuate its cruel policy of support this week.
Devocalization, or debarking, involves a not so minor surgery with a high risk of complications that uses either an oral approach, or a laryngotomy, that essentially results in cutting or removing an animal’s vocal cords — a controversial procedure many veterinarians refuse to perform.
“One snip of soft tissue in the back of the throat is the most painful thing. Many times, the dog has to be re-operated on because the membrane grows over it. It’s not good for the dog. It’s only good for people,” according to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and renowned animal behaviorist.
Regardless of how it’s done, or who does it, this procedure can cause a host of other medical problems ranging from difficulty breathing and susceptibility to aspiration pneumonia to gagging and death. This type of quick fix also does nothing to encourage responsible pet ownership and is an easy way out of working on behavior modification.
The AVMA’s current policy states that:
Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to euthanasia after behavioral modification to correct excessive vocalization has failed and after discussion of potential complications from the procedure with the owner. When dogs are housed in groups (e.g. laboratories, breeding facilities, kennels) devocalization should not be used as an alternative to appropriate animal management and facility design.
However, as the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets — which led a successful campaign to ban devocalization in Massachusetts — points out, there are numerous problems with the AVMA’s stance from its failure to address cats, to the fact that the “final alternative” claus is ambiguous and unenforceable, since no one can definitively say what the best final alternative is, whether any training was done previously or whether owners actually followed the instructions of a trainer or behaviorist.
Some who are in favor of this “convenience surgery” argue that it can help animals who may otherwise be surrendered to shelters due to barking. However, devocalization does not guarantee a dog, or cat, a permanent home. Devocalized pets still wind up in shelters and may actually have a harder time finding homes, since some people may find the wheezing, raspy or throaty sounds they make even more bizarre and irritating than barking.
Once devocalized, dogs also lose their ability to communicate and socialize normally, which may cause frustration and lead to behavioral issues, along with making them potentially dangerous to people without their ability to give warnings when they’re upset.
Now, animal advocacy groups, compassionate veterinarians and pet owners are urging the AVMA to adopt a new policy that actually protects pets by taking the stance that devocalization should be “performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians and only to treat a physical illness, disease, injury or correct a birth defect causing the animal physical harm that cannot be relieved by other veterinary care.”
Having a dog or cat in your home, whether you’re a family or a breeder, means taking responsibility for them and the inherent behaviors they come with. Train, don’t complain …and don’t devocalize.
Please sign and share the petition asking the AVMA not to support devocalization, except in cases that would be medically beneficial to pets.
The Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets is also encouraging people to make a direct call at 1-800-248-2862 and to Tweet: Hey @AVMAvets: Don’t justify dog/cat #devocalization. It’s always dangerous, always cruel. RT
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