While there are health issues that require dogs to have their vocal chords surgically altered, the procedure is also done as a way to eliminate barking and that’s wrong.
While there are health issues that require dogs to have their vocal chords surgically altered, the procedure is also done as a way to eliminate barking, and that’s wrong.
A bill before the House, which would ban devocalization except to treat or relieve an illness or injury, should be passed.
Opponents of House Bill No. 344 say it would result in more euthanizations as frustrated pet owners give their “problem” dogs to shelters.
“It’s basically going to cause the death of a lot of animals,” said Charlotte McGowan of Newton, a member of the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Owners. “You’re in an apartment, and you’ve been ordered to leave, and you can’t afford to leave; then you get rid of your dog and take it to the shelter, and the chances that dog is going to be euthanized are pretty good.”
What groups such as hers fail to note, however, are the health problems devocalization creates.
The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association reports dogs deprived of their ability to communicate effectively experience stress to the point where they become physically ill or adopt destructive behavior toward property or aggression toward animals or people.
Research also shows the surgery can lead to increased risk of aspiration pneumonia, breathing difficulties and exercise intolerance as well as chronic coughing or gagging.
For these reasons, many groups – including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – oppose devocalization.
“It is not difficult to postulate,” the Humane Society concludes, “that a pet owner who is unwilling to spend the time to address their pet’s vocalization with training and instead seeks out devocalization, may eventually surrender this same pet to a shelter ... if devocalization is either ineffective or engenders other inappropriate behaviors.”
Dottie Veneto of Quincy learned that firsthand.
Her 2-year-old Labrador, Stella, had been devocalized by its previous owner and later developed breathing difficulties.
Veneto’s vet determined Stella’s airway was 50 percent blocked because of scar tissue from the operation and had to undergo two procedures to correct the problem.
Veneto said because the dog can’t bark she has had to learn to communicate with it in other ways.
“She moves around a lot if she needs to go to the bathroom (and) I just can’t put her outside because she can’t let me know when things are wrong.”
The bill to ban devocalization, cosponsored by state Reps. Christine E. Canavan, 10th Plymouth, Viriato deMacedo, 1st Plymouth and Garrett J. Bradley, 3rd Plymouth, will receive a hearing July 14.
Those who care about the welfare of pets need to tell legislators it’s time to stop this inhumane practice.
This is no time to be silent.
The Patriot Ledger