Ventriculocordectomy: Dog Debarking Under Fire as Devocalizing Continues

Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012 05:53 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Animal welfare advocates and pet owners across the country have increasingly become more vocal in their opposition to the surgical procedure known as ventriculocordectomy, also known as devocalization or debarking.

In the procedure, a veterinarian removes tissue from the animal’s vocal chords or makes an incision in the animal’s larynx so to prevent barking or meowing.

The surgery, which has already been banned in the United Kingdom where it is considered a form of mutilation, has no benefit to the animal and puts the animal at risk both during and after surgery according to veterinarians opposed to the procedure.

According to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, in addition to the risks that accompany being anesthetized, compared with other veterinary procedures, devocalization runs “a higher risk of infection because the larynx and trachea, with their normal resident bacterial populations, cannot be made completely sterile during surgery.”

Following surgery, scar tissue left from the surgery could develop and potentially block the animal’s airways and lead to suffocation according to

Opponents also say preventing animals from being able to communicate with their owners could lead to them acting out and displaying bad behavior.

After the surgery, dogs and cats are left with a raspy sound, which according to at least one owner sounded as if her dog had an upper respiratory infection.

“I was just horrified . . . When he tried to bark, I was like, ‘What the heck?’” said dog owner Sue Perry in an interview with NBC News. Perry initially believed her adopted dog had kennel cough, until learning of the surgery after the adoption.

The current anti-devocalization petition, which has more than 134,000 signatures via (, is an attempt to have the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a not-for-profit that represents more than 76,000 veterinarians across the nation, oppose the surgery.

Currently, the AVMA approves of the surgery “as a final alternative after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed.”

In response to the petition, the organization said it will review the petition according to NBC News, though AVMA Spokesperson Sheilah Robertson said the not-for-profit lacks the power to ban the procedure.

“We just make strong recommendations,” Roberson said.The petition in question is calling for the AVMA to change its position on the procedure, not enact a ban.

To date, Massachusetts is the only state to enact a ban of devocalization, which was signed into law in 2010.

The ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States and Best Friends Animal Society all oppose devocalization as a means by which to silence one’s pet.

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