Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pet Surgeries

Today in the class that I TA, we spent a lot of time discussing elective surgeries on animals and the various things that happen to both small and large animals. The idea was to get the class thinking and discussing what makes a surgery ok, or acceptable, and what doesn't.

Of course, beyond the agricultural processes (some of which I agree with and some, like tail-docking of dairy cattle which serves no scientific purpose I do not support), this also led to ethical considerations in pets. We talked about the de-clawing process and how this actually removes a bit of the bone from each digit on a cat and destroys their ability to act on their instincts.

Of course, if you were to ask animal rights activists what they thought about cat de-clawing, they'd probably not give you an answer. They don't want involved in a sticky issue like that. Of course, they might say that they think it is a wrong-doing towards the animal but they are much more concerned with letting domesticated livestock loose to be free in the wild (even though they will die from inability to care for themselves) than helping pet owners better understand the alternatives to de-clawing.

I'm not saying I disagree with the de-clawing process, of course. I actually think it is a great option if you can't find another way to prevent your cat from tearing up the furniture, and especially if that cat will not end up outside or abandoned later, struggling to cope with the fact that its claws can't help feed it or protect it anymore. Instead, what I am saying is that there are painful procedures which go on all around us in the world today. Some of these are more obvious, like the dehorning of calves or castration of pigs. But these can be necessary procedures, just like the de-clawing of a troublesome cat. These procedures all serve to protect other animals that might be in proximity of the cows, or pigs, or housecat.

We're all in this together, and at some point, reason must prevail. We can't just keep thinking that what we do makes sense to everyone else. If we don't speak up, eventually it will be too late to state our opinion. I know you hear this all the time, but it really is important not only to figure out what you think on critical animal care issues, but then to help educate those around you. If you need an example of how ridiculous some people can get, just look at this:


  1. 1) I don't even know how to respond to the neuticals it's so ridiculous.

    2) Random story #1: We had a cat declawed once, either when my brother or I was a baby. This cat would drape itself across my mom's shoulders, and when she was holding us his claws were draping right over our soft little infant heads, so they were removed for our safety.

    3) Random story #2: We also had a dog debarked once when I was little. What do you think of that?

  2. Random story 1 is a perfect example of necessity to de-claw cats. My brother also had to de-claw his because it was so aggressive towards his rescue dog.

    Debarking was another very interesting topic which I planned to blog about soon. Why did you debark it?

  3. I was little, so I don't remember how my folks tried to train it to stop, but they like to tell the story. We still lived in Flint at the time, so it was bothersome to more people than just our family. I think that it's interesting that you mention that it "permanently inhibits the dog's ability to vocalize." From what I was told, Girlie did in fact keep "barking," but it was more of a whisper, so in our case it was a win-win situation. No one had to listen to her bark, but as far as she was concerned, she was still exercising her instinctive need to communicate.

    The concept of debarking attack/guard dogs is another interesting idea. Most people that I know who own a dog (including myself) hope that the dog's barking itself prevents an intruder from entering in the first place. Debarking a guard dog seems counterproductive since an unwelcome visitor is more likely to enter a premises if they can't detect it.

  4. One would think. But you never can tell with those druggies. Sometimes they just want a ninja dog and there's no stopping them.

    Yeah, notice I didn't say it took away their ability to vocalize, just inhibited it. Biochemistry in action. But it seems like the actual vocalization ability isn't controlled after the surgery but more of a lottery. Each dog's vocal functions are random based on the exact surgical cuts.

  5. I guess my point wasn't that her ability to vocalize was taken away, just that--from her point of view--it was actually uninhibited.

    I've also heard that dogs can regain barking two or three years after being debarked. It can also result in a build-up of scar tissue that obstructs the airways. Furthermore, debarking does not remove the underlying causes of barking, and if the cause is loneliness or boredom, it would be unethical to simply remove pieces of the vocal chords and leave the other issues unaddressed. So debarking should only be used as a last resort; it's not an easy way out.