Words matter! Loopholes effectively kill devocalization bans and hurt animals, protecting only the special interests that profit from this inhumane, behavior-masking surgery.
Lobbyists for special interest groups that profit from devocalization work to defeat humane laws prohibiting this act of animal cruelty in several ways. One 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 more insidious way is to riddle legislation with loopholes.
Cleverly worded provisions, including the following, provide just the illusion of benefiting animals. They actually would increase suffering by sanctioning devocalization or applying the law so narrowly, it would protect only a tiny minority of dogs and cats--and give lawmakers an excuse for not passing a real devocalization ban.
NINE LOOPHOLES THAT KILL DEVOCALIZATION BANS
1. Why Would Applying the Law Only to Landlords Hurt Animals? This is "smoke-and-mirrors" legislation that simply prohibits landlords from requiring devocalization. Though it sounds good at first blush, landlords are an insignificant cause of devocalization. Breeders, animal-testing labs and impatient or lazy pet owners, regardless of where they live, are the real cause of devocalization--but this law doesn't protect those animals.
And faced with such a law, the recourse for the few who demand behavior-masking surgery is to disallow all pets. So who benefits from this pointless law? Not animals.
2. Why Not Allow "Bark Softening" and Just Ban Devocalization? Because they're the same thing!
The dog breeding lobby has attempted to sanitize the practice of surgically altering an animal's voice, called devocalization, by referring to it as "bark softening." However, as the movement to prohibit this cruelty grows, lobbyists for the breeding industry are inventing new spin. They now claim "bark softening" is a different, "non-invasive" procedure.
That is patently false. The soft tissue of the vocal apparatus must be cut in order to alter the voice. Regardless of the surgical route, through the oral cavity or an incision in the neck, this indeed is invasive, painful--and dangerous.
Further, no vet can predict the sound of the altered voice. It could be hoarse and raspy, shrill and screechy or indescribably disturbing.
3. Why Would "Allowable as a Last Resort/Final Alternative" Make the Law Unenforceable--and Cause Even More Animals to Be Devocalized? This proposal hurts animals in two ways. It keeps devocalization legal because it can never be enforced. And it makes an act of cruelty socially acceptable too. That can only result in more dogs and cats subjected to risky, painful vocal cord surgery just for barking or meowing.
NOvet can know, some won't ask, if devocalization is a last or firstresort. Even receipts for training or "behavior modification" don’t mean the client followed the advice correctly, consistently or at all. Training and responsible care require time and effort. Devocalization is easy for lazy people, profitable for vets. Only the animal suffers.
NOvet can know if a client provides responsible stewardship of animals. Animals who don’t receive sufficient companionship, exercise and mental stimulation express their frustration through persistent vocalization--and worse if their needs remain unmet. Those who have not been spayed or neutered will vocalize their hormonally triggered excitement and aggression.
► Why is the "Last Resort/Final Alternative" Loophole Baseless? Vets' hands are not tied. They're free to make humane choices. Devocalization and convenience-euthanasia are not humane.
NO vet is forced to cut healthy vocal cords OR kill a healthy animal for barking or meowing.
And to say "if I don't do it, the client will just go elsewhere" suggests concern for profit not the wellbeing of helpless patients.
There are many effective, humane solutions for unwanted barking or meowing, starting with responsible selection and care of a companion animal. Boredom, loneliness and distress are the top causes of persistent barking, according to Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA; Board member, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
Consistent, correct training, facilitated by medication if necessary, is effective. And while some breeds are more vocal than others, it is the height of irresponsibility and cruelty to purchase, adopt or breed them knowing their predisposition, only to cut their vocal cords because of it.
For those who don't wish to invest the time and effort in their animals, shelter executives urge rehoming as the responsible and humane "final alternative."
Fact is, devocalization does NOT guarantee a healthy animal won't be euthanized or surrendered to a shelter. It can increase the risk. Here's why:
Surgically masking an animal's voice makes it easier to ignore the needs--such as for exercise or companionship--expressed by persistent vocalization. That is both inhumane and leaves the animal with no choice but to act out in more destructive ways, such as biting or house-soiling, the real reasons healthy animals are euthanized and relinquished to shelters.
Devocalized animals are also euthanized when owners can't or won't pay for expensive surgery to treat complications like airway blockage. And because no vet can predict the quality of the post-surgical voice, many owners are surprised to learn it is more disturbing than the one the animal was born with!
4. Why Would "Allowable for Medical Necessity" Make the Law Unenforceable? "Medically necessary" or "medically beneficial" enables vets, who profit from devocalization, to perform it without any restriction. To protect animals from having their vocal cords cut for barking or meowing, "medical necessity" must be defined as a physical illness, injury or birth defect causing medical harm.
Special interest groups also claim that unless vocal cords are cut, a "talkative" animal would be euthanized, so this procedure is medically necessary. That is disingenuous.
No one need resort to the cruel extremes of cutting healthy vocal cords OR killing a healthy animal for unwanted barking or meowing.
There are many humane and responsible solutions for those willing to pursue them. For those who aren't, shelter executives and concerned vets recommend rehoming.
5. Why Would NOT Specifying "Physical” Illness or Disease in the Legislation’s Sole Exemption Create a loophole? Pro-devocalization lobbies have tried to amend legislation to allow “behavioral” illness as a reason for cutting a dog’s or cat’s vocal cords. That is absurd: Barking and meowing are not pathology.
They are normal 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 persistent vocalization; or doesn’t train the animal correctly, consistently or at all.
6. Why Would Exempting Veterinarians From Penalties Kill The Legislation? It is primarily vets who perform devocalization. This loophole would effectively kill the law. Further, there is no basis for this exemption:
Veterinarians board-certified in surgery, anesthesiology and internal medicine say devocalization is dangerous, potentially fatal, no matter who performs it, even a skilled and experienced vet.
Because there's no benefit for the animal, devocalization 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.
7. Why Would Applying the Law Only to Breeders Make It Unenforceable and Worse? Under this proposal, only people who breed animals would not be allowed to have them devocalized. But most breeders are not licensed. Hence, there is no certain way to identify those who wish to skirt the law by claiming they're “just” pet owners.
Worse, this proposal would legitimize and encourage devocalization--an act of animal cruelty--by codifying it as an acceptable option for pet owners. That would cause even more dogs and cats to be devocalized. Here's why:
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. And devocalization obviously is profitable for the vet.
Who suffers? Only the animal and 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. Why Would Applying the Law Only to Puppy Mills Harm Animals? Puppy mills are just a small segment of those who have animals devocalized. Devocalization is also performed at the request of AKC and backyard breeders, show dog exhibitors, sled dog racers, research labs that test on animals and uninformed, impatient or selfish pet owners.
A law this narrow would leave nearly all dogs and cats vulnerable to behavior-masking vocal cord surgery.
9. Why Would the Words "Pet" and "Companion Animal" Make the Law Unenforceable? 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 without any protection.