Guess which states still allow the brutal devocalization of pets? Nearly all of them.
Devocalization, commonly called debarking in dogs, is a surgical procedure that involves removing tissue from an animal’s vocal cords, thus reducing the animal’s ability to vocalize. The surgery not only steals the animal’s ability to communicate, but it also poses numerous health risks, including the possibility that scar tissue will block the animal’s throat, and can cause significant pain.
The United Kingdom and Denmark outlawed the procedure, but almost every state in the United States allows it. In California, state legislation makes it illegal for landlords to require devocalization (and declawing) as part of their tenant agreement – though the state doesn’t outlaw the procedure. And while New Jersey has a vocalization ban, the state allows numerous exceptions, so the law is unenforceable as is. Perhaps most bizarre of them all, in Ohio, debarking is legal in dogs – except dogs that are deemed vicious.
But earlier this year, Massachusetts passed a state law banning devocalization procedures from being performed on cats and dogs. Massachusetts’ law is the only effective statewide ban of the procedure.
Opponents to the legislation claim that it will increase the number of pets turned into shelters; however, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy found that excessive vocalization is not one of the top 10 reasons pets are relinquished to shelters.
Unbelievably, other opponents fear that banning devocalization will open up the possibility that other surgeries like ear cropping and tail docking also will be banned. Like devocalization, ear cropping and tail docking surgeries are considered mutilation and are banned in several European countries.
Communication is vital to dogs and cats. Through barking and meowing, they transmit moods like happiness and fear. They vocalize in alarm and in defense. And when dogs and cats socialize, they use their voices to communicate with one another. While this surgery is physically debilitating, it also causes social handicaps and can even endanger a pet’s life.
This inhumane, brutal surgery is designed for the convenience of owners too lazy to provide behavioral support to their pets. Massachusetts’ law should encourage other states to enact similar legislation to protect our dogs and cats from an unnecessary convenience surgery.
Urge pet owners to consult with a veterinarian or to attend sessions with a reputable trainer to address the underlying problem causing the barking. To hear personal stories from pet owners who rescued dogs who were debarked, watch this five-minute-long video, Faces of Devocalization. Most importantly, write to your state legislators and urge them to ban devocalization procedures.