The 'debarking' debate and how various veterinarians weigh in
Today I looked my own testy barker right in the eye and said, "If you don’t shut up right now I WILL be looking up the most prehistoric, inhumane debarking technique on record so I can rip out your yapper .... painfully! Got it??"
Now, I didn’t really mean it. But I subconsciously may have considered it for a fraction of a second. Who among us with a serious barker hasn’t?
The difference between you and me and most dog lovers is that we may think such base thoughts and feel instantly guilty for having entertained such violent notions, while a noteworthy contingent don't bother themselves with similar recriminations. "How different is it from declawing?" they ask.
At which point I’ll quickly concede to these two fine points:
1. The declawing of cats is a practice that still enjoys wide acceptance in the U.S. This, despite its disproportionately aggressive answer to a simple question of human convenience: Like taking a hacksaw to a hangnail.
2. Meanwhile, debarking is roundly reviled as a practice that does outsized, inhumane damage to a dog’s most natural mechanism: his voice. It’s a procedure few veterinarians know how to do and few are even willing to consider. But the feline declaw? Old hat. And yet the "debark" is considered significantly less painful.
I raise this comparison not because I believe either procedure is any more defensible than the other, but because I’m always impressed by the vitriol behind debarking versus declawing. It makes no sense given the disparity in potential suffering involved.
Nonetheless, communities are far more willing to get behind banning debarking than declawing. To wit, this recent example in Rhode Island, according to a local NBC news piece:
Defenders of Animals describes debarking surgery as "mutilation," and the group wants a law to prohibit the procedure, unless medically necessary.
"People have to look at it this way. If they have a dog that's digging up holes in their backyard, they're not going to have the dog's legs amputated. We think devocalization is going to that type of extreme," said Dennis Tabella, the group's director.
Which finds me of the same mind. But not all veterinarians will agree. Here’s what a local vet has to say when queried on the subject (from the same NBC article):
"’I hate to see any limits put on a doctor-patient relationship. I think it would be a rare instance, since I've never done one in 15 years. My employer … has been doing this for 20 years, and he has never had the need to debark a dog," said Dr. Dana Brown.
I’ve never been called upon to do one either. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t welcome the addition of medically unnecessary debarking procedures to the list of inhumane practices. How hard would that be?
Now, if only declawing would get the same attention …
Dr. Patty Khuly