Legislators in Massachusetts are considering a bill that would amend the state’s animal cruelty statute to include a ban on devocalization surgery on dogs. The procedure, intended to eliminate or “soften” a dog’s bark, severs the animal’s vocal chords.
In recent weeks, the state Judiciary committee heard testimony on both sides of the issue. Proponents of the bill argued that devocalization surgery presents serious health risks such as aspiration pheumonia, chronic coughing or gagging and breathing problems. Opponents contended that more dogs would end up in shelters and would then be difficult to place if debarking surgery is outlawed.
Some opponents of legislation outlawing debarking procedures argue that if all training efforts fail, a dog that constantly barks will end up being euthanized. They argue that debarking or devocalization should be permitted as a last resort. At the other end of the spectrum are those who oppose such legislation because it would infringe on their choice for a quick solution to an annoyance.
Other U.S. states, including California, New Jersey and Ohio, have attempted, without success, to broadly ban devocalization procedures. The United Kingdom prohibits devocalization, tail docking and ear cropping on dogs, as well as declawing on cats.