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Devocalizing dogs, devocalizing citizens

Those hoping to speak their mind about a bill in Massachusetts that would ban devocalizing dogs found themselves effectively silenced this week.

The Judiciary Committee hearing — because of the committee’s decision to hear 227 bills in one day — saw debate cut off on a number of bills, including one that would ban the process of cutting or removing a dog’s vocal cords.

Backers of the bill (H 344)say (or would have, anyway) that the procedure causes unnecessary harm to dogs, puts dog-owners at risk of being bitten without warning and can lead to infection of dogs’ throats.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) did get a chance to speak in support of the bill, which was proposed at the urging of a Needham High School student, Jordan Star, who after encountering a dog that had been devocalized, felt it was morally wrong. The bill if passed, will be known as “Logan’s Law”, named after a Belgian Sheepdog that underwent devocalization surgery and was later abandoned.

The bill would make it illegal to devocalize a dog unless it is medically necessary to treat an illness or disease. The law would be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2500.

The Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA support the bill.  The Massachusetts Veterinary Association is opposed to the bill and worries that the bill “does not make debarking available as a last resort to save an animal’s life or home”.

The Judiciary Committee was forced to cut off testimony Tuesday from speakers on a range of topics, from gun violence, to sexual assault and a bill to add gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination statute, according to a report in the Wellesley Townsman. Advocates for various bills privately questioned why the committee would schedule so many contentious bills for one hearing, and some said they would have to leave without testifying because of the long waits.


Comment from LottaDogs
Time July 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

Isn’t it funny the big expert behaviorist they pulled in to testify makes his living (and quite a good one at hundreds of dollars per hour) drugging dogs to keep them quiet and complacent? Oh its so much better to drug your dog insensible than to debark it and let it bark all it wants without the lunatic neighbors filing criminal charges against you don’t you think? And if it lines his pockets to have more dogs with behavior problems in MA why his testimony is just altruistic isn’t it?
As for debarking /bark softening being mutilation – I have yet to figure out how surgery to desex a dog isn’t sexaual mutilation based on the criteria that less invasive and harmful surgery meets to be labeled as that. Dogs die during alter surgery – why isn’t anyone up in arms over that? Could it be the whole purpose is to kill more dogs ? The groups behind these types of legislation all have the goal of no more pets for anyone! The dogs that can’t become quiet enough to suit the neighbors will end up dead to make room for dogs imported from down south for resale in shelters here.
How kind is it really to kill the dogs when they end up in local shelters for barking, drug the dogs for barking, shock them, spray toxic chemicals in their faces, blast their ears with ultrasound etc. all in the name of ‘handling the problem’ humanely? How humane is it really? If you had to choose between daily and hourly and minute by minute torture for doing what you can’t stop would you choose surgery and a short recovery to stop the torture?
How about all these anti people start trying being humane to the dogs and also to the owners who love their pets even if they do bark. The people who don’t care about their pets don’t debark – they dump their dogs in shelters. Would you give up your pet because your neighbor doesn’t like it? Would you think any animal lover would?

Comment from Dennis
Time July 16, 2009 at 10:57 am

It’s great to see that Sen. Scott Brown has finally found an issue he can understand.

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time July 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm

I can’t help agreeing with a lot of what Lotta Dogs has to say. We routinely mutilate our dogs and cats in a lot of ways, major and minor. Their ears and tails are cropped, their hair is plucked and shaved, and, yes, spaying and neutering is certainly a form of mutilation–not that I remotely want to see it stopped. Spencer went in for a bath and nail care yesterday, and they asked if we wanted him shaved. What would prompt anyone to shave a shorthaired, hard-coated dog like a Beagle? Not the dog’s comfort, surely, but there are apparently people out there shaving their Beagles to avoid the constant shedding. As for cats, I think de-clawing has to be one of the most hideous and painful mutilations of all, done entirely for the owner’s convenience.

I’d have to say that de-barking belongs out near the brutal end of the spectrum with ear cropping and de-clawing. There are plenty of behavioral and training approaches to barking problems that don’t injure the dog. It would be better to see those tried first–except people seem to want instant fixes for everything.

Comment from dog lover
Time July 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Dennis: Come now. Your mean spirited comments about Sen. Brown, were just that. He has done more to protect our kids from sex offenders, and has been the only one up there watching our wallets, for you to take a cheap shot was uncalled for. Not only does Sen. Brown own 2 dogs, hsi daughter has worked at a vet clinic for 5 years, they just nursed back to health a blind cat that someone discarded in a dumster and he had the smarts enough to be the first and only one to testify for this Bill. Time to get over the petty politics and kudos to Sen. Brown. He has my vote. Dog lover

Comment from Chip
Time July 17, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Sen. Brown wasn’t the only legislator to speak in support of this humane legislation. Boston Rep. Willie Mae Allen, one of 59 cosponsors, testified that she adopted a previously devocalized dog, and how heart-breaking it is to hear him try to communicate. Another adopter testified that the gentle Lab–not a barky breed!–whose breeder had her devocalized before dumping her required major surgery to correct the scar tissue that obstructed 50% of her airway as a direct result of devocalization. Shelter execs testified that devocalized animals are abandoned just like any other, and that barking isn’t a significant reason for surrender in the first place. This is cruel, unnecessary surgery done for only two reasons: profit by breeders (who don’t want to hear their inventory bark or want to operate businesses close to neighbors) and profit by the vets who will perform it at their behest. Shame on the Mass. Veterinary Medical Assn. for sanctioning medically unnecessary vocal cord surgery. Make sure your vet doesn’t!!

Comment from bristie
Time July 18, 2009 at 9:37 am

The big expert behaviorist you mention actually saves animals’ lives without mutilating them. I’m speaking from first hand experience as I went to him with a dog I found abandoned on the street and adopted. The dog had clearly been abused and was a “fear-biter”. This big shot expert knew enough to put my dog, for a short time only, on a drug that would alleviate his fear so he could bond with us and learn that he was no longer in danger. Thanks to this big shot expert, we had our dog for 10 years and he became a much loved family member. It’s wonderful you can express your opinion; it would be better if you could weave some actual facts into your comments.

Comment from Dana Gilbert
Time July 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Brother, it makes me so sick to hear these breeders, vet techs or whoever they really are, and even, yes, vets, who make all these excuses to keep devocalizing dogs when it is clearly a form of MUTILATION. Do people realize that New Jersey, and the entire country of ENGLAND have banned it?! What are we waiting for? Still claiming that debarking saves lives?! This is just a bunch of bs. If that is a rationale, why do breeders sometimes debark all their dogs, right from the get-go? Devocalization does not save lives. It’s a fiction to accept another excuse.

Dogs abused for barking would probably be abused for any other reason, whatever happens to irriate them first. An animal abuser will find any excuse to abuse. trust me–I am both a therapist and pet-loss counselor. I know what I am talking about.