Guest Column: Tell veterinarians: Devocalization is mutilation!

Editor’s note: The following is from a petition started by Sue Perry titled “Tell Veterinarians: Devocalization is Mutilation!” The petition can be viewed and signed at

By Sue Perry

It’s hard to believe, but some vets actually cut the vocal cords of dogs AND cats just to suppress their voices. We know because it happened to our dogs before we adopted them. They’re two very different breeds — a Newfoundland and a chihuahua — and we live in two different states.

We joined with Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets, which led the successful campaign to ban devocalization in Massachusetts, to make sure no other dog or cat anywhere suffers as ours have.

But until the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) changes its position on devocalization, countless other dogs AND cats will be subjected to this inhumane, unnecessary surgery.

Though devocalization is so cruel, it is illegal in many countries, the AVMA continues to condone it as a “final alternative” to manage barking.

That leaves animals vulnerable and legitimizes devocalization. Here’s why:

No vet can possibly know if devocalization is a “final alternative,” and some won’t ask. Even receipts from a trainer or behaviorist don’t mean the advice was followed consistently or at all; devocalization is easier for lazy or impatient owners.

And just as devocalization didn’t keep our dogs from becoming homeless, it hasn’t prevented the abandonment and euthanasia of countless other dogs and cats.

How AVMA’s position hurts animals

Massachusetts currently has the only enforceable state devocalization ban in the US. Other state laws protect owners and vets, but not animals, who are subjected to a dangerous surgery they don’t need but are helpless to refuse:

We wish veterinary associations had supported legislation that truly protects animals by prohibiting vocal cord surgery except to treat a physical illness, injury or birth defect.

Instead, these associations have opposed enforceable humane laws, using the AVMA’s “final alternative” position to justify cutting an animal’s vocal cords just to deal with barking or meowing.

Why would any vet condone such cruelty? It’s obvious that some devocalize dogs and cats because it’s profitable. Others won’t devocalize but oppose banning it anyway. It could be they fear these laws would lead to prohibition of other unnecessary, mutilating surgeries like declawing, cropping ears and docking tails.

How devocalization hurt our dogs

Though an experienced vet devocalized our gentle giant, Porter, in the least invasive way, scar tissue formed in his throat, making it hard for him to breathe and swallow; he rasps, coughs and gags throughout the day like a chain smoker. Because devocalization permanently damaged his larynx, too, he’s at great risk for inhaling food, liquids, even vomit into his lungs.

Tiny Lola struggles to force out a bark and doesn’t always succeed. Like other devocalized animals, she coughs and gags a lot. One day, she may have to face the same $2,000 surgery Porter needed to save his life after he was devocalized.

That’s brutal punishment for the “crime” of communicating!

Please don’t let this brutality continue. Tell the AVMA: There is no ethical reason to cut vocal cords just to stifle an animal’s voice — ever. Devocalization is an act of cruelty that no animal deserves, no vet should perform, no veterinary association should sanction, and no civilized society should allow.

From the Oct. 24-30, 2012, issue

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