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Victory! Massachusetts Devocalization Bill Signed Into Law

Victory! Massachusetts Devocalization Bill Signed Into Law

On Thursday, April 22, Governor Deval Patrick set a humane legal precedent by signing Logan’s Law, making Massachusetts the first state in the country to have an effective statewide ban on devocalization of cats and dogs.

What’s devocalization? 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 chords, 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 gagging to 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.

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 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.

Devocalization does not guarantee a dog, or cat, a permanent home.

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) drafted a bill, An Act to Prohibit Devocalization of Dogs and Cats (H.B. 344), also known as Logan’s Law, that would ban devocalizing dogs and cats in Massachusetts, unless it’s done to treat disease, birth defects or injury.

Logan’s Law is the result of a grassroots effort, led by 16 year old Care2 member Jordan Star, who filed the bill with the founder of the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets, an unfunded, all-volunteer network of animal lovers who worked tirelessly against the opposition and showed everyone who said they would never get the bill passed that it could, indeed, be made into a law.

Their work was also supported by Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Friends of the Plymouth Pound, Companion Animal Protection Society, In Defense of Animals, Kinship Circle, MARC and NEAVS.

 

 

 

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370 comments

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6:03PM PDT on Sep 3, 2010

That's it, I'm moving to Massachusetts. *had to look at title of article to spell it right*

...On second thought, I think I'll try to help get this passed in Illinois also. *is not sure how*

6:45PM PDT on Aug 24, 2010

What is the point of devocalization? A lot of people annoy me with their blabber and I'm not allowed to cut out their vocal chords. What gives humans the right to do it to animals. Especially because we have other ways of communicating and animals don't. They can't write or anything. If your pet barks, train it to not. If you take the easy way out by devocalizing your pet, you are lazy and irresponsible. Not worthy to own a pet.

12:29PM PDT on Jun 4, 2010

good...what a cruel act

10:19PM PDT on May 11, 2010

Finally!!! Someone headed in the right direction. Way to go Massachusetts and Way to go Governor Deval Patrick. Gold Star effort! Keep up the great work. :)

1:25PM PDT on May 11, 2010

(Cont.)--

Just try a little more, every day, to challenge inconsistencies you hold about an animal's value. That has been my message all along to you.

For me, probably the most accurate and useful comment you've posted here has been the following:
"I've clearly had a lot more experience with debarking. It's a procedure that has probably been around for a lot longer than you realize."

Thanks for the education.


(And thanks for this post, Alicia G.! Much appreciated.)

1:23PM PDT on May 11, 2010

Beth K.:

I do have prejudices; all humans must struggle with these.

But unlike you, I see no need to make it a contest as to who has more of them, or who has more training, wisdom, or even more concern for their child. And ironically, because I AM open-minded, my world is far more colorful; the black & white chalkboard views you've ascribed to me simply don't exist. I've lived a good part of my life thinking as you have, for the most part, Beth. But when I stopped assigning different values and worthiness to creatures in accordance to how well they served HUMAN lives, I saw everything in a brand new perspective. Which is where you are miles from understanding, I think.

The day you equate the value of the COW---who was processed into the dog food you feed your "pets"---as being the same as that of "your" Sheltie DOG you feed the cow to, you'll experience great expansion in thought and vision. After that, you'll progress to realize that we are not gifted with the ability to correctly discern the value of any creature, even our own offspring, and in turn, you'll stop insisting on the "right" to do so.

Until that happens, I ask that you question things more than usual, and please try to live as cruelty-free as possible, in every arena you can think of. This can mean buying non-leather shoes or donating to non-animal lab testing/research facilities, or even getting rid of the makeup brushes you own that are made from animal hair. Just try a little more, every day

8:42AM PDT on May 11, 2010

Victoria: I think you have shown yourself to have more prejudices than I have. You have a very black-or-white view of the world, and the world simply doesn't always work that way. I can't tell you how much easier my job and life would be if all questions and choices had black-or-white solutions.

From your posts, I suspect I probably have a lot more training than you do. I've clearly had a lot more experience with debarking. It's a procedure that has probably been around for a lot longer than you realize.

I have always been against ear cropping. Until recently, I knew of no medical advantage to it. I just learned that there is a group of hunting dogs that, based on the type of work they do, ear cropping may truly be beneficial to them. I haven't seen these dogs at work yet, so I don't know where I stand on that. I want all the facts before i make that decision. I think I have shown more of an ability to keep an open mind than you. Part of having wisdom is that ability. Now, I don't necessarily consider myself a wise person, truly wise people are not common.

I think all life has value, I have never said otherwise. I said my child has greater value than my dogs, I won't apologize for that. Most any parent would feel the same way. That in no way means I put little value on the life of my pets, the pets of others, strays or wild animals. It appears that you don't have children, otherwise I wouldn't have to try to explain.

11:02PM PDT on May 9, 2010

Beth K.:

Your prejudices are evident, but more alarming are the justifications you've created to uphold them.

Perhaps some day you will grow brave enough to challenge your own convictions, and see that you have neither the talent or wisdom to decide which life has great value... and which life has little.

What a truly great animal doctor you would be then.

12:01PM PDT on May 8, 2010

Beth, I'm truly for giving Animals a higher Status, they're not here for us to Consume, Abuse, Hunt or Experiment on. And Horse Slaughter must just be one of the most horrific ways for an Animal to have to Leave this world, People should just call the Vet, there has to be more Compassion for our Animals, if you get an Animal, you'll have Costs and Responsibilities too for another Living being..

I also believe in Saving as many Shelter Animals as is ever possible and Rehome them to new good homes. Animals truly Enrichens our Lives and if you care for them properly and Love them I believe that they can live Happy Lives with us, in our Families.

10:26AM PDT on May 8, 2010

Megan: It still amazes me how many people are so vocal in their opposition of debarking, and yet are so clearly not educated about the subject. First, a dog's bark is NOT it's primary means of communication, body language is. Debarked dogs are not silent at all, just quieter.

Secondly, debarking is a minimally invasive procedure that takes just a few minutes and has few complications. Personally, I've never personally known a dog who had complications. As a point of comparison, I've known many dogs to have complications following a spay or neuter. These are also elective procedures.

Thirdly, it's typically not the owners who don't like the barking, it's the neighbors. You can't know when you get a dog whether it's going to be a problem barker or not. Whether you get an adult or a puppy, you often don't know what their personality is going to be like once in your home and away from whatever it's previous environment was.

So, what would you do if your neighbors had called the police with noise complaints four or five times. Your dog did not have any underlying behavior problem. You tried training but failed to decrease the barking to an acceptable level. Would you move to the country? That's not possible for most people. Give up your dog? For the relatively few dogs that fall into this category, you've just removed what may be their last chance to keep their home.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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