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Animal Law

Bark-Eliminating Surgery on Dogs Could—or Should—Be Illegal, Some Say

Posted Feb 3, 2010 2:40 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Faced with neighbor noise complaints and potentially being forced to either give up a beloved pet or move, owners of dogs deemed to bark too much may opt to have surgery on their animals' vocal cords to eliminate the noise.

But some veterinarians oppose the procedure on ethical grounds and refuse to perform the surgery, saying that it is cruel to eliminate a dog's ability to communicate. And there are even laws that prohibit the debarking surgery, except for medical or therapeutic reasons, in New Jersey and Europe, reports the New York Times. A similar law is pending in Massachusetts.

Proponents say dogs recover well from debarking surgery and don't seem unhappy afterward. Opponents point to complications that can occur and say the procedure is unnecessary. Animal lovers, dog trainers and veterinarians are represented in both camps, the newspaper article explains. The surgery isn't prohibited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (although it recommends that "behavioral modification efforts" be tried first) and some show dogs have had it.

“Dogs are usually barking because of some frustration,” says Dr. Louise Murray of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in Manhattan. “It’s frustrating to be a sheepdog with no sheep. What I’d be concerned about is if you’re debarking a dog and it has an underlying unhappiness.”

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