Teen Works to Make Debarking Illegal

A fifteen year old boy is working to have a bill passed that would make surgical debarking illegal. I know debarking is one of those hot button topics for many, but I have to admit, I see this as a good thing. I see debarked dogs at the shows all season long, and often there is reason behind their attempts to vocalize… It’s up to their families to find that reason and work with the dog. While a difficult nuisance behavior to deal with, recreational barking can be trained away from. It takes a lot of dedication, and watchfulness, but it can be done. And if the sound of a dog vocalizing is a mind-numbing pain for some, perhaps they should consider that before adding a dog (especially of a breed known for being highly “talkative”) to the family.

Teen files bill to make vocal surgery illegal
Putting a bite into debarking
By Laurel J. Sweet

Needham High freshman Jordan Star doesn’t claim he can talk to the animals, but as the surprise driving force behind a bill to outlaw the surgical silencing of dogs and cats, the teen is doing a fine job speaking on their behalf.
“To take a voice away from an animal is morally wrong,” Star, 15, said of convenience devocalization, the removal of a pet’s vocal cords so Fido and Fluffy are seen, not heard.
Star tackled the topic after encountering a dog who’d been debarked, then abandoned.
“It was just horrible,” he said of the dog’s struggle to get his attention. “It was just like a hoarse, wheezy cough. In a shelter, all they are is a mutilated animal, which makes them harder to adopt.”
Under his proposed law, to which Democratic House Majority Whip Lida E. Harkins and Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown have signed on as sponsors, devocalization would be illegal in Massachusetts unless a veterinarian licensed in this state certified for a town clerk or, in Boston, the police commissioner, that the operation was a medical necessity.  Anyone breaking the law would face up to five years in state prison and a mental-health evaluation. If enacted, it will be known as Logan’s Law for a debarked Belgian sheepdog Gayle Fitzpatrick, founder of Friends of the Plymouth Pound, and her husband Tom adopted from Texas.
“The reaction of people whenever he was outside was, ‘Does your dog have laryngitis?’ I tried to explain he had no voice box and people were pretty horrified by that,” Fitzpatrick said. “We always said to him, ‘We hear you,’ because he tried so hard to bark.”
The MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center refuses to perform non-medical devocalization, saying, “The responsible owner is willing to socialize and train a pet that is vocalizing excessively.”
Vera Wilkinson of The Cooperative Dog is a Chestnut Hill certified trainer, who heads the dog division of the International Association of Behavior Consultants.
“You have to get to the root of the problem. If the dog is barking, the dog is barking for a reason,” Wilkinson said.  “There’s a lack of understanding between people and dogs that leads to conflict, and unfortunately the dog often pays the price.

Full story can be found at http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1149346

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6 responses to “Teen Works to Make Debarking Illegal

  1. My townie neighbour with a very yappy terrier thing complained about my dogs barking. She tried to get a hunting friend who kept dogs himself to take her part against me, only to be told that a non-barking dog in the countryside is no use. Tig rarely barked & I missed frustrated visitors who would wave madly at my dog when the doorbell broke to try to get him to get me. He just stood there silently wagging his tail!. The dogs here let me know if my animals aren’t where they should be, that I have strange dogs or people on my land. Yester evening they brought the pony home after she walked down the steps up to the house & went down our lane after I opened the gate to let the horses have access to the barn

  2. The debarking bill is not what it seems. It looks like a straightforward, be-kind-to-animals law, but it is actually part of a coordinated national campaign by animal rights organizations, which do not believe people should own pets at all. Laws should be based on knowledge and fact, but this proposal relies on emotion and lack of knowledge to influence people, because the surgery is so rare that most people and even most vets are not informed about it.

    Facts: Debarking saves lives. A more accurate name is bark softening. It is a last resort that should be available for dog owners when training methods fail. Many dogs cannot be trained to stop barking, not so much when they are bored or lonely but much more when they are having fun. This proposal would kill many pets, which would have to be euthanized or taken to shelters because of neighbor complaints and Animal Control citations. Devocalization is never done on cats at all. As for dogs, no one makes the decision lightly, but it is not cruel. It is very minor surgery done under anesthesia, through the mouth (like tonsillectomy), only takes a minute, and does not remove the vocal chords, merely making a nick in them. It is much less invasive than spaying or neutering. The dogs are not silent, just much quieter. They resume their normal activities the same day and do not seem to realize they are debarked. They bark just as much, but now they are happier because they are not constantly punished for it.

    It is not drug dealers who are debarking dogs, it is pet owners with breeds that bark a lot, especially shelties, collies, terriers, small dogs. The protection breeds do not bark as much and are more easily trained to be quiet, and the myth that they are debarked so that they will attack silently is untrue. And, by the way, military dogs are routinely bark softened, what about them? They could not get special permits because this bill would mean that there would be no veterinarians who know how to do the surgery any more. This bill makes it abundantly clear how important it is to understand subjects before voting on them.

  3. fugitiveartist

    Debarked dogs are not really debarked, as is mentioned in the above comment.

    I have had many collies and they do love to bark. I have been able to teach most of them to stop barking when told to, but I have had the rare collie that seemed incapable of not barking. No behavior modification of any type would work. We would both be miserable until I had the vocal cords nicked, a fifteen minute procedure that causes the vocal cords to form a bit of scar tissue that restricts the sound that the cords can produce. The behavior of the dog is unaltered, and they are not silent, but they no longer are a noise problem.

  4. Well… I think we may have to agree to disagree on this one. I know debarking is a hot topic among many. I for one, remain against this type of surgery, like I remain against cosmetic docking and cropping.

  5. Devocalizaion is absolutely horrible! Dogs bark, and they should NEVER be surgically altered for that! You’d want your dog to be able to bark if someone was robbing your house or your house was on fire. To put a dog or cat through this procedure is horrible, the risks are numerous, ranging from infection to airway obstruction. People who devocalize say this is a simple procedure, tell that to the Pomeranian who choked to death after being devocalized and the dog who bled through his nose, ears, and mouth and choked on his own blood during and after a devocalization surgery. And for what, nothing, not even the guarantee of a secure home. Devocalized dogs are given up just like any other, some to shelters supporting this bill. The inspiration for this bill came from a devocalized dog in a shelter, contrary to what people opposing the bill have said, like this is part of a nationally organized campaign to stop people from having pets (even though I have a dog?). I have read so many times, devocalization is the only way I can breed shelties, and things like that, my question is then, why have shelties if they’re naturally noisy? Is that responsible, to have a breed predisposed to bark a lot , and then cut his vocal cords? ABSOLUTELY NOT, that is not responsible at all. This bill will promote responsible pet ownership by eliminating this horrible procedure only for human convenience and profit.

  6. I completely and 100% disagree with devocalization. Since the beginning of time, dogs have barked and cats have meowed, this is not news to anyone who becomes a pet owner. You know exactly what you’re getting when you decide to bring an animal into your home and if you do not want an animal that barks or meows, buy a rodent but then you might have a problem with squeeking so try the stuffed animal section in your local toy store and pick out as many silent animals as you want, they have nothing to lose.
    The only argument supporters have is a matter of convenience and if you find animal noises to be a nuisance, don’t own any. How can anyone call it right or responsible pet ownership to have such complete control over your animals wellbeing that you can literally slice them up to make them suit your needs? They have no say in what a human can do to them. Like humans, animals are created with instincts and natural functions and their voice is their way to communication. They can’t pick up a pen to write what they want to say like humans can and next to jumping around wildly to get your attention, they need to be able to alert their owner to harm, sudden pain and voice in defense.
    Animals are abused and neglected enough as it is, humans should not be given the opportunity to do so if they choose just to have a little more quiet.

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