Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This was a concept I had barely even heard about before we discussed it yesterday in the animal issues class that I TA. As a little side note, I would like to congratulate all of the students in that class for taking it upon themselves to enroll in a non-required class (but fulfills a GEC) that discusses such complicated topics. These are students who truly show for the most part an interest in learning things in college instead of just checking off requirements before they leave. Yesterday, I talked to an aviation major in the class, just one example of the diversity we have in the class and hopefully that will lead to a lot of healthy discussion.

Debarking dogs can be done for many reasons. First on my mind was a beagle or the deaf dog in our house last year, but apparently there are more complex interests in debarking of dogs than just the annoying metronome of dogs who haven't learned to shut up. Most interesting to me was the fact that Ohio is the only state to have a law that prohibits the debarking of vicious dogs. It would seem that there were actually people who debarked attack/guard dogs in order to still protect themselves but give the dog the benefit of surprise. Law enforcement officers found this especially troublesome for obvious reasons.

What bothers me about the debarking of dogs is the surgery and the fact that it permanently inhibits the dog's ability to vocalize. I understand this is the goal of the procedure and I'm sure there are dogs which this procedure must be performed on, dogs that have no self-control and raise complaints from neighbors, etc. There does come a point where the dog will either have to be given up or debarked for its own good. And when you reach that point and there has been no way to prevent the dog from incessant barking, then I think that debarking becomes a justifiable procedure. There was no way to previously predict the dog would behave this way and to get rid of the dog would provide less quality of life than the alternative of just removing the ability to misbehave in a way in which will result in the dog's movement to a shelter or unfamiliar home. This is just one more of those tough choices that has to be made by the people who have taken the responsibility of caring for the animal. The animal depends on these people to do the best that they can for it, and sometimes they might determine that debarking is necessary. That's just one more fact of life, and it's better than the dog having to settle into a new home or shelter.


  1. Its sad to see someone who is a TA presenting erroneous information on any topic. "Debarking" is a misnomer since dogs who undergo this simple, quick and essentially safe procedure.

    A vet goes down a dog's throat and makes a very small notch in one or both sides of the dog's vocal folds. The entire procedure takes less than 15 minutes. Dogs wake up and bark...just not as loudly. The biggest problem with the surgery is that in some dogs, enough scar tissue forms that causes the bark volume to eventually (over years) return to the volume it was prior to the surgery.

    It's important to mention that barking is not a main means of canine communication and if you do the research, you'll find that wild canids rarely bark past adolescence.

    While OH did outlaw the procedure on "vicious dogs", Massachusetts passed legislation this past summer that outlaws the procedure except when medically necessary. Warwick, RI is considering a similar bill and one has just been proposed in VA.

    Sadly, the lawmakers backing such legislation are being mislead by animal rights activists and AR groups like the Humane Society of the United States.

    How about that as a topic in your animal issues class?

  2. Gael,

    No offense, but it's sad to see your negative commentary start on such a simple grammatical error.

    As a TA, it is my primary responsibility to support an instructor. I don't create curriculum or choose topics, and I presented information similar to that class. As a state-supported school with a degree program focused on scientific research, applications and interpretation, we also do not take biased stances on controversial topics and attempt to shove them down students' throats. The goal of the course is to provoke individual curiosity, group discussion and further learning. It would seem that my post has done the same, which I am happy for. Obviously I have my own views on HSUS and other AR groups if you read through my blog but that doesn't mean I force those opinions on other people.

    You'll also see similar comments and discussion on a previous post that mentioned the de-barking process and I think you will see these to be in line with your comments about de-barking as a process and its impact on the behavior of the dog.

    Personally, I find significant differences between the domesticated dog and "wild canids", significant enough to prevent comparison of barking behavior as critical or non-critical to normal behavior. Vocalization is rarely the main source of communication in a species.

    Thanks for the other fun facts about dog legislation in addition to corroborating the accuracy of my previous statement.