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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.


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