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The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has historically sanctioned the cutting of vocal cords to mask a dog's or cat's voice, called devocalization (inaccurately referred to as “debarking” or “bark softening”).
Despite public outcry against this cruel practice, on January 6, 2013, the AVMA voted to continue sanctioning devocalization as a so-called “final alternative” to euthanasia. That is absurd. Both killing a healthy animal and cutting healthy tissue as behavioral intervention are unethical.
This policy is also obviously unenforceable. No vet can possibly know, and some won't ask, if an owner has pursued all other options. Even receipts from a trainer don’t mean the advice was followed correctly, consistently or at all. Cutting an animal’s vocal cords is easier for lazy or impatient owners and profitable for vets. Only the animal suffers.
The AVMA’s policy gives the green light to vets, pet owners, breeders and even laboratories that test on dogs to continue a practice humane veterinarians say is always cruel, always dangerous.
It ensures dogs and cats will continue to be mutilated for the “crime” of communicating.
LIFE-THREATENING RISKS, NO BENEFITS FOR ANIMALS
Devocalization exposes dogs and cats to great risks, from chronic coughing and gagging to a terrifying death from choking. Some inhale vomit, food or liquid into their lungs because their larynx has been damaged by this needless surgery.
There is no benefit to animals at all. The sad reality is, devocalization doesn’t ensure dogs or cats won’t be euthanized or given up as those who profit from this cruelty claim. In some cases, it has caused euthanasia or abandonment as a result of costly medical complications or unintended behavioral consequences of this unnecessary surgery.
In fact, while the high cost of maintaining a pet is among the top ten reasons for surrender, barking and meowing are not. There is no justification for devocalization.
WHY WOULD ANY VET SUPPORT DEVOCALIZATION?
Some vets obviously devocalize because it is profitable. Others don't devocalize but oppose banning it; many fear that would lead to prohibition of other unnecessary surgeries such as ear cropping, tail docking and declawing. A small but growing number of vets are taking an unequivocal stand for humane treatment of animals. They're advocating for laws banning vocal cord surgery on dogs and cats except to treat a physical ailment causing the animal physical, medical harm. The AVMA - and your veterinarian - should too.
TELL THE AVMA: IT’S 2013, TIME TO EVOLVE
Attitudes toward animals are evolving; the AVMA should evolve too. Please sign the petition urging the AVMA to adopt a new policy with the stance that any surgical procedure involving the vocal apparatus of dogs and cats should be performed only to treat a physical illness, disease, injury or to correct a birth defect causing the animal physical harm that cannot be relieved by other veterinary care.
For more information, visit the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets.
As someone who is concerned with animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, I am writing to ask that the AVMA change its policy regarding devocalization surgery for dogs and cats.
Removing an animals vocal cords is nothing but a quick fix that benefits owners, not pets and offers an easy way out of addressing the cause of vocalization and working on behavior modification. This surgery also leaves pets at risk for a host of medical complications, in addition to the fact that it does nothing to ensure that they will have a permanent home.
Once devocalized, dogs also lose their ability to communicate and socialize normally, which may cause frustration and lead to behavioral issues, along with making them potentially dangerous to people without their ability to give warnings when they’re upset.
I sincerely hope the AVMA will not continue to support this cruel and barbaric practice, and will instead adopt a new policy with the stance that any surgical procedure involving the vocal apparatus of dogs and cats should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians and only to treat a physical illness, disease, injury or correct a birth defect causing the animal physical harm that cannot be relieved by other veterinary care.