Guest Posts
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
A Dog's Right to Speak
Debarking ban bill passes NY Assembly
dog, bark, Dalmatian

Despite the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) efforts to stop a debarking ban bill (A01204), the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly voted for its passage on March 5, 2013. AKC argued that the government should not interfere with a dog owner’s decision making. While I understand and value the freedom to choose what is best for my personal pets, I make an exception to acts of cruelty such as debarking.


Devocalization is a surgical procedure in which the dog’s vocal cord tissue is cut to soften the bark. If you’ve heard a dog whose vocal cords have been damaged, the bark sounds muffled or raspy.


The AKC claims debarking could help a dog stay in its home rather than be abandoned at a shelter. Yet the question remains: why is this dog barking so much? Its quality of life will not be improved after surgery; after all, it has been maimed as a convenience to its owners. In which case, let’s hear the honest justification – that it is for the human’s benefit – rather than pretending that it will help the dog.


Could you imagine if a five-year-old child was “despeaked” because she talked too much? The ability to communicate should be the right of all animals, not just humans.


According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), devocalization should only be performed by “qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed.”


I would be curious to know how many owners have genuinely tried other options, such as increased attention, physical exercise, mental stimulation or regular training classes and socialization opportunities.


For example, an elderly dog who lives next door to my brother was debarked years ago. His home is a concrete pad surrounded by a chain link kennel with a plastic doghouse for shelter. His constant raspy woofs are still cause for surrounding neighbors to call the police to complain.


Instead of devocalizing him, the owners should have brought him inside their home. He barks all the time because he is kept in solitary confinement. He is lonely, bored and even though his voice can still be heard, ignored.  


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Guest | March 7 2013 |

It sounds so sad. The ability to vocalize is basical for communicating prozess. We can only know what's dog inside when dog's are able to communicate. Barking is a part of communication. Why don't want people know the insight of dog's?

Submitted by Jim | October 24 2013 |

First of all, can we please stop comparing dog behaviors to children's. Of course we aren't going to "decry" our kids...then again, the neighbors are far less likely to call the cops on our kids just for making noise.

We have a sheltie. She is part of the family. We have trained her to the point that she has free range of the house 24/7. We live on a large wooded lot, and we've trained her where her boundaries are. She can be let out without supervision. I mention all of this to demonstrate how much time and effort we have spent training her. Please don't preach to me about "spending more time with her", or "using more effective training methods", or "removing the root causes of her barking". Please...until you've owned a prone-to-barking sheltie, spare me the judgement.

She barks. A lot. All of the time. She barks when we leave. She barks when we come home. She barks when she hears any noise outside (real or imagined). She barks at the noises emitted by the ice maker. She barks when we go to bed. She barks to show joy, anger, fear, excitement and just about any other emotion that a dog can experience. She barks for no particular reason. It is loud and shrill. We have tried many methods to inhibit her barking...all have failed. Up to now, we have chosen to just live with it.

Recently my wife's company permitted her to start working from home. She does a fair amount of talking on the phone. Unless we can come up with a better solution, our dog will be spending a lot of time in her crate. Debarking is looking like a real viability for us.

More in Guest Posts:
Time Magazine and Designer Dogs
The Difference Between Guide Dog Breeds
Spice's Amazing Transformation
Career Moves
Timmy's Amazing Transformation
Learn How To Train Dogs at ClickerExpo 2015
Defusing Awkward Situations
From the Streets to the Gallery, All Thanks to the Dog
Jedi Surfs
This Dog Loves Guitar!