The old, golden dog heard footsteps on the porch…the door handle turned. Her person was home! She tried to bark a greeting. But all that came out was a raspy squeak. Later, she tried to bark at a squirrel but again, only a squeak. What was wrong?

The dog had been debarked. A surgical procedure where the vocal chords are cut.

The New York Times reports
that this surgery, also called devocalization, is performed by some veterinarians, but has been falling out of favor. According to the article “Critics of the debarking procedure say it is outdated and inhumane, one that destroys an animal’s central means of communication merely for the owner’s convenience.”

The article also cites other veterinarians who claim that the procedure, when performed properly and for the right reasons, is a viable option, and may even save some dogs from euthanasia. They say that the dogs recover well and “don’t seem ever to notice any difference.”

The procedure is sometimes performed on show dogs and drug dealers’ dogs.

Let’s say a city apartment-dweller has so many complaints about his dog barking that he is faced with getting rid of the dog or eviction. So he decides the surgery is the best solution.

My question is, had the owner tried training? behavior modification? I’m not saying I’m happy with those collars that zap a dog when they bark, but if the situation were extreme, I would prefer that to surgery. What about bringing a pet sitter in during the day to walk the dog and give it some company? Most dogs don’t bark constantly for no reason. Could the dog have been bored, lonely, stressed, frightened, or even had some other medical conditions that could attribute to the barking? Perhaps the city apartment wasn’t the best home for the dog?

I know that we can’t state for sure that a dog is unhappy or traumatized without its bark. But to me it seems sad, putting an animal through a surgical procedure (not without risks) because someone chose to take away the animal’s natural ability to communicate in the way intended.