Words matter! Clever loopholes effectively kill proposed devocalization bans by allowing and encouraging the cruelty they should prohibit. These bad laws are worse for animals than having no law.
Special interest groups that profit from devocalization ("bark softening," "voice reduction") of dogs and cats work to defeat humane laws prohibiting this act of animal cruelty. One way is to kill the legislation outright by persuading lawmakers to vote against it, send it to the black hole of "study" or hold it in a committee until it is dead.
A far more destructive way to destroy a good devocalization ban is by riddling it with sneaky loopholes. That can be done when the bill is written--or any time before the governor signs it into law!
These cleverly worded provisions may seem humane. But they would allow, even encourage, the very act of animal cruelty the law was intended to prohibit. Here are just a few to watch out for:
TEN LOOPHOLES THAT DESTROY GOOD DEVOCALIZATION BANS
1) "Allowable as a Last Resort/Final Alternative to Euthanasia" is a Loophole, Unenforceable and Baseless. This is an emotionally manipulative and baseless proposal that serves only to keep an inhumane convenience surgery legal--and worse, legitimize it!
NO vet is forced to cut healthy vocal cord tissue OR kill a healthy animal for barking or meowing. The claim "if I don't do it, the client will just go elsewhere" suggests concern for profit not the wellbeing of vulnerable patients.
Surrender to a shelter doesn't mean euthanasia; many shelters are no-kill, and all good ones work with training and behavior specialists to correct issues like so-called "nuisance" barking/meowing. Often those issues disappear when the animal receives proper care.
Vets can’t possibly know—some won’t ask—if a client provides the responsible care and consistent, correct training necessary to manage animal behavior. Animals who don’t receive the companionship, exercise and mental stimulation they need express their distress vocally. And even receipts from a trainer don’t mean the advice was followed. Having an animal’s vocal cords cut, notched or lasered is easier for lazy owners, profitable for vets. Only the animal suffers.
Devocalized animals are euthanized, surrendered and abandoned despite--some because of--their surgically altered voices. Shelters and concerned vets say rehoming is the humane "final alternative" and that devocalization should never be an option.
Some dog AND cat breeds are innately more talkative than others. "Final alternative" allows their vocal cords to be cut for the benefit of selfish peoplewho buy, adopt or breed them knowing this genetic predisposition.
The "final alternative" loophole encourages devocalization by legitimizing elective voice-altering surgery, an act of animal cruelty, as an acceptable practice under the law. Lifting the stigma will expose even more dogs and cats to devocalization.
And this loophole promotes irresponsible pet ownership and breeding. There are many effective, humane alternatives to devocalization: selection of a pet appropriate for one’s living environment; responsible care and supervision; consistent, correct training; and sometimes medication under the guidance of a veterinary behaviorist. Access to voice-altering surgery relieves owners of these commitments, giving them a quick fix that does NOT fix the underlying issue, only masks it.That can lead to more serious problems, such as biting or house-soiling, the top reasons healthy animals are surrendered and euthanized.
2) EXCLUDING These Definitions Creates a Loophole. Statutes must precisely define the actions they're supposed to make illegal or the law cannot be enforced. Without the following definitions, vets wishing to skirt a devocalization ban can play with words. For example, "I didn't devocalize the patient, I softened his bark/meow."
"VOCAL CORD SURGERY" shall mean a procedure involving the vocal apparatus of a dog or cat that includes cutting, notching, punching, abrading, laser, suturing or otherwise physically altering the tissue regardless of the surgical route.
“DEVOCALIZATION” shall mean vocal cord surgery on a dog or cat, as defined above, performed with the intent of altering, reducing or eliminating vocal sounds produced by that animal. This includes procedures ALSO REFERRED TO AS debarking, devoicing, silencing, vocal cordectomy, ventriculocordectomy, bark (or voice) softening, quieting or reduction.
"MEDICALLY NECESSARY" shall mean necessary to treat a PHYSICAL illness, disease or injury or correct a birth defect causing the animal medical harm or pain that cannot be relieved or remedied by other veterinary care.
3) "Allowable for Medical Necessity" is a Loophole UNLESS Defined As: “to treat a PHYSICAL illness, disease or injury or correct a birth defect causing the animal physical harm or pain.”An allowance that simply says "medically necessary (or beneficial)" is open to interpretation, enabling vets to perform non-therapeutic, voice-altering surgery without any restriction.
4) Removing the Word “Physical” From This Definition is a Loophole. That allows vets to cut an animal's vocal folds for any reason, including the absurd claim of "behavioral illness."
Barking and meowing are not pathology. They're communication that only becomes problematic when an owner ignores the animal’s needs (such as for exercise and companionship); keeps too many animals; inadvertently rewards and reinforces barking/meowing; or doesn’t train the animal correctly or at all.
Even anxiety-triggered vocalization can be managed humanely with medication and behavior modification under the guidance of a veterinary behaviorist. Cutting vocal cords doesn't relieve distress. The animal continues to suffer and in desperation may act out in more damaging ways.
5) Substituting "Pet" or "Companion Animal" for "Dogs and Cats is a Loophole. Animals used for breeding, show, sport or testing by research laboratories—devocalized so they'll be quiet in kennels or the show ring—are not considered pets. A law that says "pets" or "companion animals" instead of "dogs and cats" would leave these animals with NO protection.
6) Banning Devocalization But Allowing "Bark Softening,” “Bark Quieting,” “Voice Reduction” Or Other Euphemism is a Loophole. Lobbyists for those with a financial interest in devocalization falsely claim "bark softening (or quieting or reduction)” is different, a more benign, "non-invasive" procedure.
Here's the truth: They're the same cruelty! The soft tissue of the vocal apparatus MUST be cutin order to alter the voice.
That's invasive and dangerousregardless of the surgical route, through the open mouth or an incision in the neck; the amount of tissue cut; and the vet's skill.
Scarring may occur whenever soft tissue is cut or abraded, even with laser.
Scar tissue that develops in the throat can cause lifelong anguish or horrific death due to impaired breathing and swallowing, persistent coughing and gagging or chronic inflammation. (Imagine how a never-ending bout of strep throat would feel!) Devocalized animals are more prone to choking and heatstroke than other dogs and cats.
Damage to the larynx can cause food, liquids, even vomit to be inhaled into the lungs. As if that weren't frightening enough, it can lead to potentially fatal aspiration pneumonia.
7) Applying the Law Only to Breeders is a Loophole. Under this proposal, only people who breed animals would not be allowed to have them devocalized.
But there is no certain way to identify breeders who wish to skirt the law by claiming they're “just” pet owners—breeders aren’t licensed.
Worse, this proposal would encourage devocalization by codifying it as an acceptable option for pet owners. Having vocal cords cut is quick and easy for those who enjoy a dog's or cat's companionship but don't want to commit to responsible pet selection, care, training and supervision. This surgery also benefits the vets who perform it.
Who suffers? Only animals and their future owners, who may be forced to choose between a $2,000 procedure to remove scar tissue from their beloved pet's airway and euthanasia.
8) Applying the Law Only to Puppy Mills is a Loophole. Puppy mills are just a small segment of those who have animals devocalized. A law this narrow would leave nearly all dogs and cats unprotected, vulnerable to the pain and life-threatening risks of elective voice-altering surgery.
9) Exempting Veterinarians From Penalties Would Kill the Legislation!
It is primarily vets who perform devocalization. Individuals who perform surgery on animals without a veterinary license are subject to other laws.
Veterinarians board-certified in surgery, anesthesiology and internal medicine say: Altering an animal's voice is always dangerous. It poses serious surgical and long-term risks--some life-threatening--regardless of who performs it, even a skilled and experienced vet.
With no benefit for the animal, not even the falsely claimed assurance of a home, elective voice-altering surgery isn't just dangerous, it is cruel.
And no one should be allowed to engage in an act of animal cruelty, least of all veterinarians, who are entrusted to protect animals from harm.
10) Applying the Law Only to Landlords is a Loophole. This is "smoke-and-mirrors" legislation that prohibits landlords from requiring devocalization. Though that may sound good at first blush--most loopholes do--the reality is very different.
Lease requirements are an insignificant causeof devocalization. The real reason dogs and cats are subjected to voice-altering surgeryis for the benefit of:irresponsible pet owners, whether in apartments or single-family homes; breeders who like to profit from but not hear their many animals; and research labs that test on dogs and cats. Landlord-only laws don’t protect these animals.
The recourse for the few landlords who may have required devocalization is simple: disallow all pets. So what would this law accomplish? Nothing--except reduce the likelihood that legislators will pass a good law in the future.