Tell the American Veterinary Medical Association: Your Devocalization Policy Hurts Dogs and Cats
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has historically sanctioned cutting vocal cords to stifle a dog's or cat's voice--widely and rightly considered humane. Despite public outcry in recent years, the AVMA's updated policy ensures dogs and cats will continue to be subjected to this painful, extremely dangerous elective surgery for the "crime" of communicating.
Its claim that devocalization should be allowed as a "final alternative to euthanasia" is baseless and unenforceable, an attempt to elevate this act of animal cruelty to an acceptable option.
No one is forced to cut healthy vocal cord tissue OR kill a healthy animal for unwanted barking or meowing. Both practices are cruel and unethical.
There are many effective, humane solutions, starting with responsible selection and care of companion animals. Shelters and concerned vets say rehoming is the kinder "final alternative." Further, devocalization does not protect healthy dogs and cats from euthanasia for the owner's convenience. It can even increase the risk.
WHY DO SOME VETS PERFORM OR JUSTIFY AN ACT OF CRUELTY? Some vets devocalize because it's profitable. Others don't devocalize but fear outlawing it would lead to prohibition of other unnecessary, mutilating surgeries such as ear cropping, tail docking and declawing.
A small but growing number of vets are advocating for laws banning vocal cord surgery on dogs and cats except to treat a physical ailment causing the animal physical, medical harm.
The AVMA and your vet should take this humane stand too.
THE AVMA'S DEVOCALIZATION POLICY... Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to euthanasia after behavioral modification to correct excessive vocalization has failed and after discussion of potential complications from the procedure with the owner. When dogs are housed in groups (e.g. laboratories, breeding facilities, kennels) devocalization should not be used as an alternative to appropriate animal management and facility design.
... AND WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT
Cats are devocalized too; it’s documented. This policy doesn't consider them at all.
"should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians"
Veterinarians board-certified in surgery, anesthesiology and internal medicine say: Devocalization is always dangerous, even in the hands of qualified, licensed veterinarians. And exposing animals to these risks just to mask their natural voices is always inhumane.
"as a final alternative to euthanasia"
This is a false choice: There are many effective, humane ways to manage barking and meowing, with rehoming as a “final alternative" for owners who can't or won't pursue them. No one need resort to cutting healthy vocal cord tissue or killing a healthy animal just for barking or meowing.
“Final alternative” is unenforceable. No vet can know--and some won’t ask--if a client provides proper care and training, essential to manage all animal behavior. Even receipts from a trainer or behaviorist don’t mean the client followed instructions correctly, consistently or at all; devocalization is easier for the owner, profitable for the vet. Only the animal suffers.
There is always a reason for persistent vocalization that should be addressed, according to preeminent veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, DVA, DACVB, DACVA. The animal may be bored, lonely, anxious or need more exercise. Some people unwittingly reward and reinforce the vocalization they say annoys them. Others keep too many animals or "talkative" breeds like Sheltie dogs and Siamese cats where their voices won't be tolerated. Cutting the animal's vocal cords is not the solution.
Shelter executives say devocalized animals are given up and euthanized like any other dog or cat.The cost of maintaining a pet is among the top ten reasons for surrender. Barking and meowing are not.
Other top reasons for surrender, biting and house-soiling, may be caused or worsened by devocalization. Surgically stifling an animal's voice makes it easy for owners to ignore the needs expressed by persistent vocalizing, such as for companionship or exercise. The animal then has little choice but to express his distress through attention-seeking behaviors that are more irksome or dangerous than barking or meowing.
Devocalization can increase the risk of euthanasia when people can't or won'tpay for the costly procedure needed to remove scar tissue from their pet's airway. Scar tissue development, a normal outcome of any surgery, can be deadly in the throat.
"When dogs are housed in groups (e.g. laboratories, breeding facilities, kennels) devocalization should not be used as an alternative to appropriate animal management"
This is as unenforceable as the "final alternative" loophole, sanctioning the use of devocalization by animal-testing labs and breeders as long as "appropriate animal management and facility design" is claimed.
CONCERNED VETS PROPOSE THIS POLICY Concerned veterinarians such as those in this video have joined animal shelters, advocacy groups, pet owners and others in calling for a ban on devocalization. They say cutting vocal cords just to stifle a dog's or cat's voice is cruel, and no one--including vets--should be allowed to engage in animal cruelty.
A more animal-protective position for the AVMA to take would be:
Any surgical procedure involving the vocal apparatus of dogs and cats should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians and only to treat a physical illness, disease, injury or correct a birth defect causing the animal physical, medical harm that cannot be relieved by other veterinary care.