How Some Breeders Twist the Facts About Devocalization
Breeders who like to profit from without hearing their many animals have their vocal cords cut (which they trivialize as "bark softening" or "voice reduction"). Here are some of the ways they try to justify this cruel convenience surgery--and the facts.
CLAIM:Bark softening is the equivalent of a tonsillectomy for a child - a one-time short procedure with a mild anesthetic. FACT: That's patently false, a ridiculous claim.
“Comparing a tonsil to the vocal cord is like comparing a toe to the heart," explains Joel Woolfson, DVM, DACVS, a Board-certified veterinary surgeon.
"The tonsil is a lymph node. The vocal fold is a much more complex structure with intricate innervation. It plays a critical role in breathing and protecting the lungs from aspiration.”
Dr. Woolfson adds that surgically altering the voice is dangerous--and recovery is painful--regardless of the vet’s skill, the amount of tissue cut, the instrument used or the surgical route, through the open mouth (trivialized as "bark softening") or an incision in the neck.
Along with surgical risks, even a small cut in the vocal fold forms scar tissue that can block the animal's airway.
And because the so-called “bark softening” approach often does not achieve the desired vocal outcome, some animals are subjected to it again and again. Others require life-saving surgery to remove scarring from the airway that results when the vocal folds are cut.
Outcomes of voice-altering surgery that cause the animal lifelong misery include:
Persistent coughing and gagging
Chronic throat inflammation
Life-threatening risks include:
Infection, a higher risk than for other surgeries due toresident bacteria in the larynx and trachea.
Choking on food, a terrifying way to die
Heatstroke even when it's not hot
Aspiration of food, water and vomit into the lungs--painful, frightening and can lead to fatal pneumonia
This dog's veterinary record says "REOP AT NC," which means the "bark softening" surgery will be repeated at no charge if the owner isn't satisfied with the altered voice. That's good for the cost-conscious client, but it means more pain, stress and risks for the helpless animal.
CLAIM:It allows the dog to still bark but with a lower volume and pitch so that neighbors are not bothered. FACT: No vet can predict the sound of the post-surgical voice. It can be hoarse, shrill or just strange and disturbing. Some animals whistle when they vocalize after “bark softening” surgery.
CLAIM:Some breeds are BRED to bark - that was one of their original functions as a breed - to sound an alarm. FACT: What could be more cruel--and irresponsible--than to breed or purchase animals bred for frequent barking or meowing (such as Sheltie dogs and Siamese cats) only to cut their vocal cords because of this cultivated trait?
CLAIM:In today's urbanized society, alarm barking can cause a dog to lose its home. FACT: Barking for any reason can be managed humanely through correct, consistent training; responsible care and supervision; and when necessary, medication to facilitate behavior modification.
Shelters and rescue groups report devocalized (“bark softened”) animals are surrendered to them, and that barking/meowing is an insignificant reason for relinquishment in the first place.
The real reasons for surrender--biting, house-soiling and the high cost of care--can be caused or worsened by devocalization, which compromises both the animal's health and his primary means of communication. The top reasons for persistent barking are boredom, loneliness and other distress. Cutting vocal cords masks the symptom, enabling the owner to ignore the underlying problem--which leaves the frustrated animal little choice but to escalate to more destructive behavior.
CLAIM:People who oppose bark softening…never seem to object to spaying and neutering. FACT: Spay/neuter benefits animals and society. Voice-altering surgery just causes pain and suffering.
Spay/neuter benefits animals by reducing the risk of certain cancers.
Spay/neuter benefits the community by reducing the pet overpopulation that burdens nonprofit animal shelters and tax-payer funded municipal pounds.
Spay/neuter reduces "problem" vocalization caused by hormonally triggered excitement or aggression!
CLAIM:The surgery that reduces the barking noise is more properly called “bark softening” as the dog is still able to “bark” following this procedure, but at a reduced volume. When performed by a skilled veterinarian, bark softening is an acceptable medical procedure. FACT:Vets board-certified in surgery, anesthesiology and internal medicine have testified that there is NO benign way to surgically alter an animal’s voice, regardless of the vet’s skill, the amount of tissue cut, the instrument used or the surgical route, through the open mouth or an incision in the neck. The term "bark softening" is spin created to trivialize an act of animal cruelty and keep it legal for those with a financial interest in it.
CLAIM:For many responsible dog owners, bark softening is the only alternative to euthanizing or surrendering their canine companion to a local shelter when their pet’s noisy behavior continually disturbs the community. FACT: Devocalized (“bark softened”) animals are surrendered to shelters and convenience-euthanized for the same reasons as any other dog or cat--or because the owner can’t or won’t pay for very expensive surgery to remove scar tissue that may form over the airway as a result of devocalization. Surgically stifling an animal's voice is NOT responsible. What is?
Providing consistent, correct training and supervision
Selecting an appropriate breed for one’s living environment and lifestyle
Providing the companionship, exercise and mental stimulation animals require
Treating issues such as anxiety with behavior modification and if necessary, medication under the supervision of a veterinary behaviorist
Choosing an appropriate location for breeding
Not keeping more animals than you can responsibly care for!
Surgically stifling an animal’s voice puts the community at risk because it:
Enables hoarding and illegal breeding operations
Discourages responsible training, care and supervision, necessary to manage all behavior, including vocalization. There are no surgeries that prevent animals from soiling public property, jumping on small children and frail elders, or darting into traffic. Responsible pet stewardship does.
Can lead to biting. Boredom, loneliness and other distress are the top reasons for persistent vocalization, according to behavior experts like Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Past President, Association of Pet Dog Trainers and Board of Directors, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Cutting vocal cords allows the owner to ignore those cries for help, leaving the frustrated animal with little choice but to escalate to more destructive behavior.
Compromises the animal’s communication. Here's why that's dangerous for people who come in contact with the dog:
Devocalization removes or reduces the vocal nuances that animals use to communicate different meanings.
And few people can accurately interpret animal body language, especially when he is not their own. How many realize a wagging tail can indicate agitation not friendliness?
Imagine a child running up to pet a devocalized dog in the park, unaware that the animal’s muffled, ambiguous sounds—and tail wags—mean, “Get away from me or I’ll bite.”
CLAIM:They also get to stay in their homes even if they are persistent barkers. FACT: Dogs and cats are surrendered, abandoned and convenience-euthanized despite--some because of--their surgically altered voices.
People who select, train, care for and supervise animals responsibly and humanely—and who make a lifetime commitment to them—are what really keeps dogs and cats out of shelters.
Voice-altering surgery does not.
It only causes animals--and their future owners--needless anguish.