They cough and gag. Suffer heatstroke even when it's not hot. Inhale food, liquids and vomit into their lungs. Struggle to breathe. Choke to death.
These are among the miseries dogs and cats endure after being devocalized, an inhumane veterinary procedure in which vocal cords are cut to stifle the animal's voice.
Whether instruments are inserted through the open mouth (trivialized as "bark softening") or an incision in the neck, regardless of how little vocal cord tissue is cut, it is always dangerous, always cruel.
Those who have animals devocalized, and the vets who perform it for them, rarely disclose it. They know it's considered cruel--and that it is easy to conceal. Unlike ears, tails and paws, cut vocal cords are hidden from view.
LIFE-THREATENING RISKS... Veterinarians board-certified in surgery, anesthesiology and internal medicine say vocal cord surgery is dangerous, potentially lethal, regardless of who performs it or how.
Even a little scar tissue, a normal outcome of any surgery, can be deadly or cause lifelong anguish when it forms in the throat. Other risks include blood loss, infection, and damage to the larynx that can cause inhalation of food, liquids, even vomit into the lungs.
...WITHOUT ANY BENEFIT When performed as behavior intervention, vocal cord surgery is cruel. Yet some try to sanitize it as a "final alternative" to surrender or euthanasia, an indefensible claim that protects human convenience and profit, not animals. Here's the reality:
No vet can know and some won't ask if the client has pursued all humane options, including responsible care, consistent training and, if indicated, medication under the guidance of a qualified veterinary behaviorist.
Shelters and rescue groups say healthy dogs and cats are given up--and euthanized--after their voices have been altered.
No vet is forced to cut healthy vocal cord tissue or kill a healthy animal for barking or meowing.
Vets have a choice. Animals don't. Helpless to refuse this risky convenience surgery, innocent dogs and cats don't benefit from it at all.
That's why Massachusetts outlawed voice-altering surgery in 2010 without loopholes pushed by veterinary and breeding lobbyists--thanks to the tenacity of caring people, including 200 humane vets, under the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets umbrella. It is the only state in the US that protects all its dogs and cats from this cruelty.