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The Ethics of Debarking: Not a Gray Area February 3, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,

Perhaps this is a bit off-topic for the Infomavens, but I feel compelled to write about and share a New York Times article on the ethicality of debarking dogs. You see, it’s a pet-peeve (pun intended) of mine. Apparently, some dog owners have either decided or been forced to “debark” their dogs due to complaining neighbors, or (I am guessing) their own headaches. The article particularly mentions a few people who have chosen to debark – one who lives in an apartment complex, and one who “has more than a dozen dogs at a time”, and regularly shows these dogs. Debarking a dog is not suggested and even considered inhumane by most veterinarians and groups dedicated to animal rights. “The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that the surgery only be done ‘after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed'” (New York Times).

One of my "barkers"

Not to paraphrase the famous “dog whisperer” Cesar Milan, whose practices are questionable, but Milan often finds that problem dogs (and those who excessively bark) do so because they do not receive as much exercise as they need. Having a dog is a huge responsibility and one that people frequently take on without proper preparation. Dogs need to be trained and dogs need exercise. Even less trainable dogs can be helped with training aids like bark collars which deliver low voltage shocks to the dog when it barks. Supporters of debarking report that their dogs did not change after the surgery, that they were not “sad”. Dogs are resilient; that is true. But does that mean that debarking is not unethical? Seeing as barks are one of the primary ways dogs communicate, it’s just about as ethical as cutting the vocal cords of your wailing baby. Think about that.


1. Marge Falconer - February 3, 2010

I’m not a dog lover but I have to agree.

2. Eileen - February 5, 2010

The ONLY time I can see debarking as an option is when the choice is between that and the dog losing their home. Obviously I will try all other methods with my clients first, but if they have tried everything they are capable of, and especially if they have a big, scary dog not likely to be adopted if it was dropped off at a shelter, I’d rather they debark than put the dog down.

I do agree that the examples in the article were ridiculous. One that stuck out to me was the line about if she doesn’t learn to play quietly, she’ll have the surgery soon. No, you have to TEACH the dog to play quietly, and be sure you’re meeting all her needs. 95% of the time barking is a symptom, and debarking does nothing to solve the root of the problem.


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