Cosmetic surgery on pets has always been a controversial topic. Cosmetic tail docking and declawing clearly do not benefit the animals and in some cases, ear cropping is nothing more than a canine’s version of a face-lift. However, there is a procedure, which is generating a lot interest from dog owners around the globe. This procedure isn’t new, but those who perform it rarely disclose it, so it may seem new to many of us.
This procedure is called ventricular cordectomy, but is more widely known as “debarking” but since it is also performed on cats, the general term would be “devocalization”. It is a surgical procedure to reduce the tissue in a dog or cat’s vocal cords. The overall goal of this surgery is not to completely silence the animal, as the title of “devocalization” suggests, but to remove vocal distinctions. The result is not exactly a softer version of the natural voice, but rather a shrill, screechy and hoarse sound. Click here to watch a video of debarked dogs trying to bark.
The surgery can result in different types of post-surgical voices, and some of the time, the animal’s voice comes back in a few months with the development of scar tissue. However, the National Animal Interest Alliance’s (NAIA) National Director, Patti Strand’s dog didn’t have that problem. “I recommend keeping your dog calm and sedate for about three days after the surgery. If her natural tendency is to bark, and she does so directly after the surgery, it increases the risk of developing scar tissue. That’s what we did for our dog.”
There has been some speculation as to how the procedure affects the dogs emotionally. “Emotionally speaking, if you declaw a cat, it’s more inclined to bite and be defensive. You’ve taken away its main protection. Therefore, I would think that since dogs use barking as a warning, they would feel emotionally castrated,” stated Dr. Megan Shannon, veterinarian in Denver, CO. However, Ms. Strand feels differently. “It matters very little to the dog. You have to remember that in having this surgery done, you are not taking away your dog’s ability to bark, you are simply softening the sound of it.” But since the top reasons for persistent vocalization for dogs are boredom loneliness and distress, such as anxiety, debarking doesn’t resolve those issues, and leaves the animal little choice but to get attention in other rather destructive ways, like biting or house soiling.
This surgery requires general anesthesia, which always increases the risks of excessive bleeding and infection. Plus, the risk of infection is greater for debarking than other surgeries due to resident bacteria in the trachea and larynx. Aside from this, the larynx prevents the animal from breathing his own food and water into his lungs, and it might be damaged by devocalization surgery, preventing it from closing properly. When this happens, the animal is at high risk for inhaling food, liquid or even vomit into its lungs, which may result in aspiration pneumonia. Dogs and cats who had been devocalized suffer! They cough and gag, suffer heatstroke even when it’s not hot, struggle to breathe and sometimes even choke to death.
While many believe this procedure is cruel, some of the legislation being passed against it stems from the belief that this surgical technique is being used for criminal function. It is believed criminals are intending to hush attack dogs so that they will not alert their anticipated prey. Some people think that this surgery makes it easier for criminals to harbor large amounts of dogs associated in dog fighting rings. Ohio prohibits debarking only of dogs deemed “dangerous.” This protects humans from being attacked without vocal warning. Click here to find out about existing laws on devocalization.
Obviously, dogs do bark for as a way of communicating. It’s to let us know that they are bored, lonely, threatened, distressed, excited. By devocalizing your dog or cat, you aren’t dealing with the real issues at hand. This procedure gives you, as the owner, less reason to be cognizant of your dog’s environmental stressors, and little or no motivation to reduce them. Aside from that, not only are devocalized animals convenience-euthanized and given to shelters like any other dog or cat, debarking can increase the risk: post-surgical complications are really expensive to treat, and as we said, it doesn’t manage and may even lead to or worsen house-soiling or biting. It doesn’t improve an owner’s financial, health or marital problems. These are the real reasons healthy pets are given up.
We encourage dog owners to work through their issues first, in the same way that you would with your kids or spouse. Explore other behavioral solutions before deciding on this surgery. A few of our suggestions: Join an obedience class to minimize barking. Take your dog for a calm, relaxing walk. This will be more effective than rough play, “tug,” or “fetch,” all of which serve to heighten your dog’s excitement level, which may be expressed as barking. Calm exercise, however, will satisfy him without stirring his adrenaline. There are also “anti-bark” collars that deliver a puff of citronella when he barks. While these collars do tend to raise some concern, when used sensibly and correctly, they can be very effective.
Massachusetts is the first in the U.S. with an enforceable law, passed on July 21, 2010, that prohibits devocalization of all dogs and cats statewide. Logan’s Law Logan’s Law was sponsored by Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets, an unfunded, all-volunteer organization. It was endorsed by animal shelters, rescue groups and concerned veterinarians throughout Massachusetts.
Nature provides dogs with a bark for a reason. It gives them a voice to express, warn, and protect; including protecting you! So, simply debarking is unnatural and cruel on every level. Do we “decry” a baby when it’s only way to express is through that cry? No, we try to find a way to understand and quell the baby’s natural cry, through patience, attention and comfort. Dog’s deserve the same respect, since pet parents everywhere consider their pets furry children and members of the family. Give dogs a voice – let’s rally and “Defunct Debarking!
Animal Fair Media Asks You Make One Call To Support This Legislation
A proposed state law to ban devocalization–cutting vocal cords just to stifle a dog’s or cat’s voice–has been released from committee and is on its way to a vote by the entire NYS Assembly. It could happen any time now.
Lobbies that profit from devocalization are working to kill the bill outright or with loopholes that allow and legitimize this act of animal cruelty. (Scroll down to learn more.) That would be disastrous for animals.
It’s up to you to stop them–and ensure this bill becomes law as it was introduced, strong legislation that will protect dogs and cats from a mutilating surgery cruelly performed as behavioral intervention.
WHAT NEW YORKERS WHO CARE ABOUT ANIMALS
MUST DO IMMEDIATELY TO PROTECT THEM.
PLEASE DON’T DELAY!!
Make ONE call only, during business hours. Be brief and polite.
Tell the office of your own NYS Assemblymember this: “Please pass Assembly bill A1204, banning devocalization, as it was introduced, withoutamendments. This is a front-burner issue for me!”
- Fill in your address to find your Assemblymember: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?sh=search
- If you get voicemail, leave a short message: “I’m a constituent who’d like Assembly bill A1204 to pass without amendments.” Then try to call back.
- If you must email, put this in the subject line: Constituent Support for A1204 Without Amendments
- Either way, provide your name/address. Constituents rock!