Silencing Fido: Should Dog Devocalization Be Outlawed?

Animal rights activists are barking mad about a controversial silencing procedure.
Would you really take away these cute fellas' ability to bark? (Photo: Joseph H. Bailey/Getty Images)
Nov 19, 2012

Porter's voice was hoarse, his bark raspy. During and after walks around the block, the recently adopted dog experienced shortness of breath. And when eating, he'd often have the urge to vomit—his gag reflex was that heightened. 

It was these series of health ailments that prompted Porter's new owner, 58-year old Connecticut resident Sue Perry, to take him to to the vet.

What she found horrified her: Porter had been devocalized by a previous owner.

Porter's diagnosis prompted Perry to form the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets, which led to petition to get the American Veterinary Medical Association to ban all veterinarians from cutting animals' vocal chords in order to stifle their barks. 

So-called doggie devocalizing "is always a dangerous procedure, even in the hands of the most skilled veterinary surgeon," says Dr. Holly Cheever of The Village Animal Clinic in Vooreheesville, New York, to TakePart. "Scar tissue, which is part of normal healing, can create a blockage of the airways with disastrous consequences." 

Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are the only states in the country to ban the practice. Europe has banned the dangerous practice altogether—key word being dangerous.

MORE: The Dangers of Shipping Your Dog in an Airplane

Because devocalized animals can't pant correctly, they can die of heatstrokes or from inhaling food into their lungs. 

In case you're curious to hear a devocalized dog, watch this video. Barks can range from permanent muteness to a "bird chirp."  

Supporters of devocalization claim that a dog who frequently barks and causes neighbors to complain can lead to eviction; so, rather than giving an animal away, they would prefer to cut the dog's vocal chords. 

However, just as the argument against declawing cats, barks give dogs the power to communicate and protect themselves, so why would we take that physiological ability away from them? 

What's ironic is that "The direct or indirect human artificial selection process made the dog bark as we know," says Csaba Molnar, a former ethologist at Hungary’s Eotvos Lorand University. According to, "Molnar’s work was inspired by a simple but intriguing fact: Barking is common in domesticated dogs, but infrequent if not downright absent in their wild counterparts."  

"The policy recently underwent review as part of an association process that calls for each AVMA policy to be examined every five years," wrote David Kirkpatrick of the American Veterinary Medical Association, in an email to TakePart. "This review occurred prior to the start of the petition effort. The AVMA Executive Board referred a proposed revised policy, which reflects AVMA member input and was recommended by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, to the AVMA House of Delegates on Nov. 17. The House of Delegates will consider the proposed revisions at its regular winter meeting on Jan. 5, 2013."

As for your part in this cause, don't stop barking about devocalization.  

Give a voice to the animals that lost theirs.

If you owned a dog that barked too much, would you ever consider "devocalization" surgery as a noise remedy? Tell us in the COMMENTS below.

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