BC SPCA calls for a ban on devocalization or canine debarking

After successfully fighting to end the practices of declawing in cats and ear and tail docking in dogs, the BC SPCA is once again calling on the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC ) to ban another medically unnecessary procedure for pets.

This time, they hope to put an end to debarking, or canine devocalization, a procedure in which a dog’s vocal cords are removed to muffle or eliminate barking.

Veterinarian Rob Ashburner, owner of the West King Edward Animal Clinic, said barking allows dogs to express themselves and helps them communicate with people and other dogs.

“Barking is a natural behavior for dogs to express emotions…being able to vocalize is good for dogs,” Ashburner said.

The SPCA said in a statement that in some cases, the dog’s vocal cord tissue regrows, returning their ability to bark to near-normal levels. Devocalized dogs are still motivated to bark because the procedure does not address the underlying reasons for the barking, according to the statement.

Ashburner said excessive barking is often caused by stress, separation anxiety, or lack of stimulation in their environment.

“Removing the barking doesn’t fix the problem, it just treats the symptoms.”

He recommends that owners consult with a veterinarian, dog trainer or dog behavior specialist to train their dog. He said that in some cases dogs may be prescribed medication to relieve their anxiety or stress.

If training and behavioral intervention don’t work, another option is to consider another home for the dog in an environment where it feels more comfortable or where barking doesn’t bother people nearby, said Ashburner.

CVBC CEO Megan Bergman said in a written statement to CBC that the college was in the early stages of reviewing the matter and was unable to comment.

“The CVBC recognizes the importance of reviewing changes to standards and regulations that may impact animal welfare…we look forward to working collaboratively to review canine devocalization,” Bergman wrote.

The practice of devocalization has been banned in Alberta and Nova Scotia, and is soon banned In Quebec.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has published a statement at the end of February opposing non-therapeutic devocalization in dogs. They recognized that therapeutic devocalization can take place for valid reasons, including airway obstruction, laryngeal paralysis, or cancer.