Activists Take on AVMA to Condemn Debarking Surgery

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Sue Perry and Porter

Everyone has that neighbor who leaves their dog outside to bark all day.  From dusk till dawn, Hunter is barking at every leaf that floats by, and we all wish he would just shut up.  But to what end do we wish that possible?  Most of us would rather the owner just take better care of their pet, but some have gone so far as to devocalize their dogs.

Though it is rare, some people do take their dogs and even cats to the vet to have a venticulocordectomy performed, which is the removal of the vocal cords.  This procedure is done by going through the mouth or by making an incision in the throat.  This medically unnecessary surgery can cause scar tissue build-up, and impair a dog’s ability to breathe and eat.  Additional surgeries may be needed to remove scar tissue, as is the case with Sue Perry’s adopted Newfoundland, Porter.

“I was just horrified by this,” said Perry.  “When he tried to bark, I was like, ‘What the heck?’”

Perry is adamantly against the inhumane procedure, and wondered how Porter’s previous owner could do such a thing, then give him up anyway.  She belongs to the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets, which fought to get “debarking” outlawed in Massachusetts.  Karen Mahmud, another of the group’s activists, also has an adopted dog, a Chihuahua named Lola, who had previously been devocalized.  Lola coughs constantly, and acts like there is something lodged in her throat.

Karen Mahmud with Lola

“It’s very, very upsetting,” said Mahmud.  “I would never think that it’s ok to put a dog under needless torture.  If a dog barks, a dog barks.

The two women, who have never met in person, created an online petition demanding that the American Veterinary Medical Association speak out against debarking.  They say as long as the AMVA does not condemn it, they condone it.  The petition has already garnered over 130,000 signatures.

The practice of devocalization is illegal in Europe, as well as in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but the word needs to get around to outlaw it in the rest of the states.  Most veterinarians refuse to do this surgery, and it is no longer taught in veterinary schools.

“My feeling is very strong that this procedure is done strictly for the convenience of people who don’t want to hear or are annoyed by their pet’s vocalizations,” said Joel Woolfson, a veterinary surgeon.  “It has nothing to do with the health of the animal.”

Dog experts say much of excessive dog barking is down to the owners:  the dogs are bored, socially isolated, poorly trained and suffer from anxiety or compulsive disorders.  Of course, they also bark when stimulated or when they feel their territory or themselves are threatened.

Sheilah Robertson, veterinarian and assistant director of the AMVA’s Animal Welfare Division, said the Animal Welfare Committee will consider scientific evidence and public opinion on the matter when they review the devocalization policy.

Below is the link for the petition for the AMVA to speak out against debarking:


5 thoughts on “Activists Take on AVMA to Condemn Debarking Surgery”

  1. Pity their previous owners didn’t get robbed, then they might have wished they hadn’t cut their poor dogs vocal chords!

  2. Don’t have a dog, if he is not allowed to bark.Have you cut,i cant stand your shouting,you cruel humans.

  3. Los perros tienen alma,sentimientos,memoria,y mas oido,y olfato que nosotros!!!Son los mejores amigos del mundo!CUIDENLOS,son como ninos!Yo he recojido varios en adopcion.Y, Los Adoro!

  4. “If a dog barks, a dog barks.”

    If he barks enough, the neighbors complain.

    If they complain enough, AC labels him a nuisance dog.

    If the problem isn’t remedied, AC removes him from the home and has him PTS for being a nuisance dog. At least in my county.

    So, would you rather have the dog dead or a debarked one? For me, the choice is pretty obvious. Clearly these individuals follow PETA’s line of thought and would rather see dead dogs.

    If only it WAS still taught in vet schools. That way, younger vets would actually know how to do it properly, and problems like Lola’s coughing wouldn’t exist because the vet did the surgery properly AND the owners did follow-up care properly, which most don’t.

    I don’t believe in debarking as a first resort, but I do believe in it as a last resort after you have explored all other avenues. It’s an option that still needs to exist.

    And no, I have never debarked one of my dogs. I’ve never needed to. But I can accept that for some people, it may be the last option before taking the dog to the shelter or giving it away, and I would rather see the dog remain with its owners than add to an already overburdened shelter system or be given away to people who may or may not take care of it.


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