There probably aren’t many people out there who don’t appreciate a little peace and quiet now and then, but there are some who will go to the extreme of having their pets devocalized, or debarked, to get it.
Devocalizing 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 chords, a controversial procedure many veterinarians will also 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.
This type of quick fix also does nothing to encourage responsible pet ownership, and is an easy way out of working on behavior modification.
While 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, debarked dogs still wind up in shelters and may also have a harder time finding homes, since some 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.
The Animal Law Coalition (ALC) has drafted a bill, An Act to Prohibit Devocalization of Dogs and Cats (H.B. 344), sponsored by Rep. Lida Harkins that would ban devocalizing dogs and cats in Massachusetts, unless it’s done for medical reasons.
All of this is the result of a grassroots effort, led by 15 year old Care2 member Jordan Star, who filed the bill with help from the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets. Star who also worked on a bill to ban pet renting in Massachusetts, said this “turned into something way bigger” than he thought it would and he’s since gotten support from state Sen. Scott Brown, in addition to other legislators.
The bill is also supported by organizations including the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Angell Animal Medical Center, Animal Law Coalition, Buddy Dog Humane Society, Friends of the Plymouth Pound, Marblehead Animal Shelter, MassPAWS and the MSPCA, among others.
You may be wondering who would actually be in favor of devocalization. The answer would be the usual suspects…
According to ALC, “devocalizing or silencing enables illegal activities associated with dogs and cats: Owners trying to avoid pet limits, licensing or nuisance laws may simply debark their pets. Worse, commercial breeders hiding the numbers of dogs or cats they have and the squalid conditions in which they are kept, notoriously rely on surgical devocalizing or silencing. Surgical devocalizing or silencing allows hoarders to go undetected for too long. Dog fighters also use surgical debarking or silencing to avoid detection of their criminal activities.”
For more information about devocalization visit the Animal Law Coalition.
If you live in Massachusetts please contact your state legislators and ask them to support An Act to Prohibit Devocalization of Dogs and Cats sponsored by Lida Harkins. The hearing is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on July 14th at the State House in Boston.
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