Only Massachusetts and Maryland protect all their dogs and cats from devocalization ("bark softening"). Other states' laws leave them vulnerable to this cruel, potentially fatal convenience surgery.
Not all devocalization laws are good for dogs and cats. Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets led the campaigns that passed Logan's Law--named for the devocalized dog pictured above--in Massachusetts (2010) and Maryland's 2014 devocalization ban. Both laws prohibit vocal cord surgery on all dogs and cats when used as behavior intervention.
Other states' laws don't. Some are built on LOOPHOLES thatprotect human profit and convenience, not animals. Others, like "landlord laws," provide just an illusion of animal protection.
Well-intentioned but uninformed animal advocates enable bad devocalization laws like the ones below when they file or support legislation without really understanding this nuanced issue.
Before you jump on the bandwagon for devocalization "bans," read about the devious loopholes and language landmines crafted to justify the unjustifiable--and keep animal cruelty legal.
►CALIFORNIA'S AND RHODE ISLAND'S "LANDLORD LAW" merely prevents landlords from requiring tenants to have pets devocalized or declawed.
However, landlords are NOT the reason the overwhelming majority of people have these surgeries performed on their animals. Breeders, animal-testing labs and irresponsible pet owners, regardless of where they live, do so for their own benefit. "Landlord laws" leave their animals without any protection.
In fact, the California law was endorsed by the California Apartment Association, which represents the interests of rental property owners and managers--not tenants or their pets! The association obviously would have opposed this legislation if many landlords were mandating devocalization and declawing.
The recourse for the few who required devocalization or declawing prior to the law is to disallow all pets. So who does this legislation really serve?
►OHIO prohibits devocalization only of dogs deemed "dangerous." This protects humans from being attacked without vocal warning. But it leaves most dogs--and all cats--fair game for unnecessary vocal cord surgery. And the truth is, even small dogs can cause big harm, especially when they bite a child or frail elder.
►NEW JERSEY puts the decision to devocalize dogs solely in the hands of veterinarians, who profit from this unnecessary surgery. For example, if the vet says his/her client threatened euthanasia or relinquishment to a shelter--fates animals meet even afterdevocalization--that would be reason to perform inhumane, behavior-masking surgery under this unenforceable law. Though cats are subjected to devocalization too, they're not covered by the law at all.
Reality Check: It's as unethical to cut healthy vocal cord tissue--a dangerous surgery with serious, sometimes fatal complications--as it is to kill a healthy animal just for barking or meowing. No vet should do either. But some do. There's no gun to their heads. They risk only lost revenue. That's not reason to perform unnecessary surgery. And it's why enforceable laws prohibiting devocalization when used as behavior intervention are essential.
►PENNSYLVANIA allows devocalization of dogs if performed by a veterinarian and requires the use of anesthesia. The law does not apply to cats. But it doesn't afford dogs any real protection either! It is primarily vets who perform devocalization, so the number of procedures this law would disallow is insignificant—and those happen even where devocalization is legal.
Reality Check: Veterinarians board-certified in surgery, anesthesiology and internal medicine say vocal cord surgery puts animals at high risk for lifelong suffering or a terrible death regardless of who performs it, the instrument used and the surgical route. And the pain and life-threatening risks caused by this convenience surgery may continue long after the anesthesia has worn off.
EMPTY LAWS MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO PROTECT ANIMALS. HERE'S WHY:
Loopholed laws that allow voice-altering surgery on dogs and cats by anyone for any reason other than to relieve a physical ailment causing the animal medical harm are worse than no law: They legitimize this act of cruelty, which will expose even more animals to it by giving pet owners moral permission to have them devocalized. (Breeders, mushers and vivisectors do it anyway!)
Reality check:Loopholed laws are not stepping stones. They are dead ends, offering lawmakers a way to appease the veterinary lobby, which wants to keep devocalization legal, and fool animal advocates, who don't.
When it's time to pass laws that really would protect animals by prohibiting elective voice-altering surgery without exception, these shrewd legislators can simply claim, "I already voted for that."
And dogs and cats will continue to be maimed with the blessing of the state.
Information on state laws provided by the Animal Law Coalition