Newsletter

NY Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski Passes Bill to Ban Inhumane Devocalization of Dogs and Cats

i Apr 2nd

On March 25, 2015, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) announced that his bill to restrict surgical devocalization procedures on dogs and cats passed the Assembly (A.1679).

For full press release click HERE.

SUPPORT ANTI-DEVOCALIZATION LEGISLATION

i Feb 28th

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP ANIMALS!
SUPPORT ANTI-DEVOCALIZATION LEGISLATION

As ISAR’s supporters know, one of our major programs is STOP DEVOCALIZATION NOW.

New York activists have once again tried to stop the barbaric, almost always unjustifiable medical procedure.

They need all the help they can get, especially in the face of predictable opposition by the American Kennel Club.

The relevant public information follows……….

Wed, Jan 29th 2014 10:55 pm

Assemblyman John Ceretto co-sponsored and passed legislation to ban “convenience” animal devocalization in New York. The procedure poses significant and unnecessary health risks to healthy animals and is done simply to silence more boisterous animals. Ceretto considers this an inhumane procedure to perform on a healthy animal.

“I was happy to help sponsor and pass this humane legislation for our four-legged friends,” he said. “Removing the vocal chords of a loud animal is an extreme, Byzantine solution that should not be allowed in New York.

We love our dogs like family, and there are better solutions to stop dogs from barking, such as professional training. We don’t remove our kids’ vocal chords when they start talking back, and we shouldn’t devocalize animals that bark too much.”

Exceptions are made for situations where the procedure is necessary for treatment of an illness, disease or injury.

The legislation will now be sent to the Senate and, if passed, it will then go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk to be signed into law.

No surprise that the AKC promptly informed its supporters to lobby the New York Senate to kill the bill or vote it down.

Where Have All the Volunteers Gone?

i May 23rd

ISAR first announced its Stop Devocalization Now Project (for a description of the brutal practice of devocalization, see www.stopdevocalizationnow.org) in our Blog of September 18, 2012. Since its inception, there have been 54, 078 page visits.

Following that announcement, ISAR has taken the following actions in support of our Stop Devocalization Now Project:

  • We snail-mailed our quarterly newsletter to thousands of our supporters emphasizing the Stop Devocalization Now Project, included a Stop Devocalization Now bumper sticker, and offered to provide unlimited quantities at our cost. (We received a single request, for 100 bumper stickers.)
  • We announced the Stop Devocalization Now Project to thousands of our supporters in our E-newsletter.
  • We issued a press release about the Stop Devocalization Now Project.
  • We posted information about the Stop Devocalization Now Project on Facebook.
  • We produced an Xtranormal video about the Stop Devocalization Now Project, and received thousands of views.
  • We distributed a YouTube video about the Stop Devocalization Now Project.
  • We interviewed Dr. Nicholas Dodman–world renowned animal behaviorist, and bestselling author–about devocalization and posted it on our website.
  • We appeared on “Animals Today,” a weekly online streaming radio show also heard on more than 30 markets around the country, where ISAR’s president Susan Dapsis discussed devocalization.
  • We advertised in Best Friends Magazine in connection with the Stop Devocalization Now Project.
  • We solicited interest in the Stop Devocalization Now Project from the Fraternal Order of Police.
  • We reached out to various political action committees concerning the Stop Devocalization Now Project.

In every one of these actions ISAR earnestly and explicitly sought the assistance of volunteers whose sole responsibility would be to obtain state or local legislative support for ISAR’s anti-devocalization model statute.

How many expressions of interest did ISAR receive from the countless people throughout the United States who had learned about our Stop Devocalization Now Project?

How many individuals even sought further information about how through little effort on their part they might help end the practice of devocalization?

Exactly none.

There are several ironies here. A major one is that while reasonable people can disagree in good faith about various issues in the animal rights/protection field, no one can honestly quarrel with the proposition that devocalization is a brutal anti-animal procedure that must be ended.

Yet among the countless people who agree with ISAR’s position, and doubtless laud our efforts, not one of them has come forward to find out how they could help volunteer their time and efforts to work legislatively to end devocalization.

As ISAR mentioned in our previous publications, a volunteer’s task is not difficult:

  • The ISAR volunteer should identify a sympathetic legislator(s) on a municipal, county or state level;
  • The ISAR volunteer should make the legislators aware of and provide to him or her the material contained in this website, especially ISAR’s Model Anti-Devocalization Statute;
  • The ISAR volunteer should encourage the legislators to solicit as many co-sponsors as possible in support of ISAR’s Model Statute;
  • The ISAR volunteer, once the bill is introduced and assigned to a committee, should identify sympathetic members of that committee and seek their support for the bill.

Ideally, the bill’s sponsor and/or at least one co-sponsor will have some leverage with the committee chairperson and legislative leadership so that the proposed legislation will get out of committee and obtain a majority vote of the legislature.

We have provided a lengthy Table of Contents for NIFAA president and author, Julie Lewin’s book entitled Get Political for Animals and Win the Laws They Need, which contains detailed information and instruction about how to lobby on behalf of animals.

As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, ISAR cannot lobby for or against the enactment of legislation. However, we can support those who are willing to fight for legislation that will end devocalization throughout the United States. ISAR knows there are willing anti-devocalization advocates in legislative bodies throughout the United States, but we can’t find them. But volunteers can.

And, as we have learned, in Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere, there are powerful legislative enemies of efforts to end the barbaric practice of devocalization.

With the help of likeminded people, whose volunteer participation we sincerely solicit, this is one battle dogs and cats can win.

Won’t you please help us help them?

ISAR’s Stop Devocalization Now Video

i Jan 11th

Recently, ISAR has brought to the attention of our supporters and others, the widespread cruel practice in the United States of surgically cutting the vocal cords of canines (and, less often, felines) known formally as ventriculocordectomy. Synonyms often include “debarking,” “devocalization,” “silencing,” “bark softening,” and “cutting the vocal chords.”

In 2012, ISAR launched it’s newly-created, one-stop, educational website aimed at exposing and prohibiting the barbaric practice of dog and cat devocalization, www.stopdevocalizationnow.org. In addition to the creation of our new website, ISAR produced an Xtranormal video entitled, Silence is Not Golden, and drafted an exceptional and informative Model Statute entitled, ISAR’s Model Statute Restricting Devocalization.

Now, to continue our educational efforts against devocalization in 2013, ISAR is kicking off our Stop Devocalization Now project with our latest Youtube video. With this recent video, ISAR further solicits the help from our friends and supporters while encouraging them to help us spread the word against devocalization.

To view ISAR’s Stop Devocalization Now video, click on the image below or click on this link.

If you like it as much as we do, please forward it to as many people as you can, asking them to do the same.

Once you are on the video page, the share button will enable you to email or repost ISAR’s video on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages.

If you have a website or blog and would like to embed our latest video on your homepage, ISAR encourages you to do so by copying and pasting the embed link found on our Youtube video page.

Together we can accomplish great feats to help companion animals and one very simple way to do that is by keeping ISAR visible to the public eye.

ISAR gets out the word about our Stop Devocalization Project

i Dec 11th

As our friends and supporters know, we have recently created a stand-alone project aimed at prohibiting the barbaric practice of devocalization. Because ISAR is truly an international organization, our newsletter, blog and eBulletin goes out to our friends and supporters not only in the United States, but worldwide.

Last month we received a supportive email from a Swedish veterinarian who wrote that “As a veterinarian I am ashamed that some of my American colleagues are taking part in this unnatural and unhealthy modification of healthy animals to make them suit their owners. Fortunately this is illegal in Europe. USA should follow.”

We could not agree more!

Stop Devocalization Now

i Sep 18th

 

STOP DEVOCALIZATION NOW 

A Project of International Society for Animal Rights

 

www.stopdevocalizationnow.org

www.isaronline.org

contact@isaronline.org

 

 

Unknown to most custodians of dogs and cats and the public at large, there is a widespread practice in the United States of surgically cutting the vocal cords of canines (and, less often, felines). That’s correct: cutting their vocal cords.

This mutilating procedure when not performed for the medical benefit of dogs and cats but instead for the convenience of humans, must be ended throughout the United States. And it must be ended now!

To accomplish that goal, International Society for Animal Rights has created our stand-alone Stop Devocalization Now Project, dedicated to helping those who are willing and able to engage in the legislative-lobbying actions that ISAR, as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, can not directly perform.

While commonly known by the euphemism “debarking,” synonyms for cutting a dog’s or cat’s vocal cords include “devocalization,” “silencing,” “bark softening,” “cutting the vocal chords”– and by the formal medical term “ventriculocordectomy.” (In this announcement, as shorthand I’ll use dogs and the term “devocalization” as examples.)

Now for the gruesome details. A dog is devocalized by having her vocal cord soft tissue cut by the veterinarian making a surgical incision in the dog’s neck, or by inserting tools through her mouth.

The consequences for devocalized dogs can be, and often are, horrific. For example, breathing can become a struggle for devocalized animals because of airway obstruction, which in turn can cause a later administration of anesthesia for legitimate medical reasons to be problematic. A dog can choke on food, inhale vomit into her lungs, choke, gag, cough. Scar tissue buildup can require multiple surgical procedures. And more.

The devocalization procedure can cause severe blood loss and infection.

Police — anyone, for that matter — encountering a devocalized dog trained to attack will have no warning.

It has been reported that a devocalized dog is more likely to be dumped or surrendered to a shelter, adding to the already serious overpopulation problem. Indeed, it has been reported also that in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shelters received many devocalized animals before the practice (with a narrow exception) was outlawed.

There is much more to be said about the medical aspects of devocalization, but just what I’ve said so far should suffice to demonstrate that devocalization is cruel, brutal, dangerous — let alone immoral — in its treatment of animals as if they were simply inanimate objects to be used and abused by humans without regard to their ability to experience pain and their need to live natural lives.

By devocalizing a dog, the veterinarian’s knife assaults not only the animal, but its ability to communicate — and the idea of a humane society that humans should strive for.

Putting aside body language, the only other way an animal can communicate is through vocalization. Sever that ability literally and figuratively, and the animal has no means to convey its mental state to other animals and humans. It lacks the ability to control the tone, intensity and frequency of its voice. Lacking that, the dog cannot communicate fear, aggression, danger, pain — everything the animal “knows.” To get a sense of what devocalization means to a dog or any other animal, one need only ask a mute human being what he’s deprived of because of his inability to speak.

In order to precipitate a national discussion about devocalization, and to arm those likeminded people and organizations such as International Society for Animal Rights who want to end the practice, ISAR has created the Stop Devocalization Now Project.

We will provide all information possible about devocalization, including but not limited to links containing the following:

Aspects of Devocalization

Medical

Ethical

Behavioral

Opponents and proponents

Activism

ISAR’s Model Anti-Devocalization Statute

Suggested Letter-to-the-Editor and others

Veterinarian/behaviorist non-devocalization support and pledge

Initiative and referendum

Petitions

Anti-devocalization efforts abroad

Australia

Elsewhere

Law and Legislation

Existing domestic anti-devocalization legislation

Massachusetts

New Jersey

Warwick, Rhode Island

Newtown, Ohio

Ohio

Pending anti-devocalization legislation

California

Virginia

Failed anti-devocalization legislative attempts

California

New York

Cranston, Rhode Island

Congress

Lobbying

Cases related to anti-devocalization legislation

Constitutionality of anti-devocalization legislation

Public Education

Anti-devocalization videos

ISAR’s potential supporters are literally countless. Our constituents are every dog and cat that is a potential victim of the scalpel. Potential activists are the many good people throughout the United States who understand the nature of devocalization, and are willing to work to end it.

We are actively seeking volunteers to work legislatively to end devocalization.

As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, ISAR cannot lobby for or against the enactment of legislation. However, we can support those who are willing to fight for legislation that will end devocalization throughout the United States.

A volunteer’s task is not difficult:

  • The ISAR volunteer should identify a sympathetic legislator(s) on a municipal, county or state level;
  • The ISAR volunteer should make the legislators aware of and provide to him or her the material contained in this websiteespecially ISAR’s Model Anti-Devocalization Statute;
  • The ISAR volunteer should encourage the legislators to solicit as many co-sponsors as possible in support of ISAR’s Model Statute;
  • The ISAR volunteer, once the bill is introduced and assigned to a committee, should identify sympathetic members of that committee and seek their support for the bill.

Ideally, the bill’s sponsor and/or at least one co-sponsor will have some leverage with the committee chairperson and legislative leadership so that the proposed legislation will get out of committee and obtain a majority vote of the legislature. (At http://isaronline.org/programs/stop-devocalization-now/lobbying/ we have provided a lengthy Table of Contents for NIFAA president and author, Julie Lewin’s book entitled Get Political for Animals and Win the Laws They Need, which contains detailed information and instruction about how to lobby on behalf of animals.)

ISAR knows there are willing anti-devocalization advocates in legislative bodies throughout the United States, but we can’t find them. But volunteers can.

And, as we have learned, in Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere, there are powerful legislative enemies of efforts to end the barbaric practice of devocalization.

But with the help of likeminded people, whose volunteer participation we sincerely solicit, this is one battle dogs and cats can win.

Sincerely,

Susan Dapsis
President, ISAR

 

Massachusetts Ban On “Devocalization” Becomes Law

i May 10th

Two months ago ISAR brought to the attention of our supporters the pendency of House Bill 344 prohibiting under most circumstances the “devocalization” of animals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The thrust of our blog was not merely that the bill sought to address a serious moral issue of animal rights, but to deconstruct the specious and anti-animal position of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association.

To its everlasting shame, the MVMA persisted in its unprincipled and indefensible opposition to HB 344.

No matter.

The governor has signed the bill.

“Devocalization” is now a crime in Massachusetts.

And the MVMA has disgraced itself.

Silencing the already silenced: De-barking/de-meowing/de-purring dogs and cats.

i Mar 8th

Unknown to most caring custodians of dogs and cats, there is a widespread practice in the United States of surgically cutting the vocal cords of canines (and occasionally felines). Known by the euphemism “devocalization,” the procedure is almost always performed for the convenience of the animals’ “owners.”

Among other reasons, large-scale breeders even in rural areas want to keep down the noise level of their captives, and backyard breeders have to be concerned with neighbors.

Sometimes, “devocalization” is a compromise between children who want a pet, and parents who don’t want animal vocalization.

Whatever the reasons, devocalization is inimical to the animal’s health, unnatural, cruel and yet another brutal example of humans seeing canines and felines not only as property, but as inanimate objects—and devocalization as nothing more than oiling a squeaky door hinge.

House Bill No. 344, which languished for over a year, seeks to prohibit the practice of devocalization. Having the express support of at least sixty legislators on March 3, 2010, it was finally approved by the House where it had the support of at least 60 legislators. It provides in part that:

“Section 80. (a) No person shall surgically debark or silence a dog or cat, or cause the surgical debarking or silencing of a dog or cat, unless a veterinarian licensed in this state has filed a written certification with the town clerk or in Boston, the police commissioner, stating that the surgical debarking or silencing is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury, or correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or will cause the dog or cat medical harm or pain.

(b) The written certification described in (a) shall contain the date and description of the veterinarian’s examination and evaluation of the dog or cat, statement certifying that surgical debarking or silencing is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury, or correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or will cause the dog or cat harm or pain; any supporting diagnosis and findings, the name and current address and telephone number of the dog or cat’s owner or keeper, and the name and current address and telephone number, state license number, and signature of the veterinarian.

(c) No person except a veterinarian licensed in this state, using anesthesia, may surgically debark or silence a dog or cat.

(d) Any person in violation of this section shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment. A court may also order any person convicted under this section to submit to a mental health evaluation as determined by the court and undergo any recommended counseling or treatment. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, a person convicted under this section may be barred from owning or possessing any animals, or living on the same property with someone who owns or possesses animals, for a period of time deemed appropriate by the court, and required to take humane education, pet ownership and dog training classes as ordered by the court.”

In addition the bill provides that: “Any person or business selling a dog or cat for profit shall disclose whether the dog or cat has been surgically debarked or silenced and provide the purchaser with a copy of the veterinarian certification required by Chapter 272, Sec. 80.”

One would expect that H.B. No. 344 enjoys the support of not only the many legislators who have endorsed it, but also of everyone in Massachusetts who cares about the wellbeing of companion animals—especially the Commonwealth’s veterinarians.

Wrong.

Although many veterinarians do support the bill, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, speaking for organized veterinarians, opposes the devocalization bill.

In a cynical, self-serving official statement approved on June 17, 2009, the MVMA had this to say, in its entirety [ISAR’s comments are inserted in brackets and Times New Roman bold-face]:

The Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, the statewide association of veterinarians [a profession, not a trade, supposedly devoted to the care of companion animals], deplores [not “condemns,” “opposes” or “denounces”] devocalizing [i.e., surgically cutting the vocal cords] an animal to facilitate the animal’s sale or for reasons of convenience.

MVMA encourages [not “implores”] responsible pet ownership from the start, including selecting a breed and particular dog appropriate for the owner’s living situation and foreseeable family circumstances; undertaking behavior training while a puppy; being consistent and reinforcing behavioral standards; seeking veterinarians’ advice when problems arise; and consulting and working in earnest with veterinary behavior specialists, who can often help owners successfully address excessive vocalization
problems
[excellent advice, but not exhaustive].

MVMA strongly urges pet owners to utilize behavioral interventions instead of devocalizing an animal [How about “urging” all MVMA members not to perform the procedure?].

In this imperfect world, however, we know that peoples’ life situations can change. There may be circumstances when devocalization is necessary [conveniently not defined], particularly when the owner has already undertaken behavior modification techniques pursuant to a veterinarian’s advice. When all acceptable [to whom, and by what standard?] avenues for correcting excessive barking have been exhausted, and the pet risks losing her or his life or home, we believe that surgical cordectomy needs to be available as a last resort. [The root of this problem is irresponsible pet ownership, and a refusal to live with the choices one has made. If a “change in life situations” includes marriage, divorce, having children, moving, then there will never be any reasons not to debark. The MVMA poses a false alternative: if “circumstances change,” cut the chords or kill (or dump) the animal.]

Ultimately, a decision to devocalize an animal should be made by the pet owner in consultation with a licensed veterinarian. Devocalization should be performed only in extreme [again, not defined] circumstances – as a last resort before turning a pet over to an animal shelter or performing humane euthanasia – and should never
be performed as a routine matter
[True, but again a false alternative].

While the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association strongly discourages canine and feline devocalization, the MVMA opposes House No. 344 for the following reasons [Now we come to it.]:

the bill requires that “otherwise confidential information” – such as the animal’s identification and medical diagnosis, and identification and location of the animal’s owner – be made public: we find no precedent for such public disclosure in medicine or veterinary medicine except when public health is at issue. [The MVMA offers not a shred of support for this naked assertion. We have inserted quotation marks above to emphasize the point. All sorts of non-public health information about dogs must be reported to the government, and thus to the “public,” including but not limited to licensing data. The MVMA’s objection is merely a red-herring, unworthy of further comment.]

the bill provides too narrow an exception for performing devocalization, in that “medically necessary” is not the only legitimate reason for this procedure to be performed: surgical cordectomy may be necessary to save an animal’s life when euthanasia is seen as the only viable alternative. [This, at best, is a non sequitur. First, the MVMA offers only one other “legitimate reason,” and that (“save an animal’s life”) would certainly be “medically necessary”—an exception that the MVMA itself accepts as “legitimate”.]
the bill infringes upon a veterinarian’s exercise of her or his professional judgment, taking account of the particular condition and circumstances of the individual animal. [Bluntly, this statement is patronizing double-talk, apparently put forth on the assumption that the MVMA’s opponents and the public are stupid. For one thing, earlier in its statement the MVMA encourages discussion with a veterinarian who, in no case, is the final authority concerning what is to be done with a companion animal; primarily it is the custodian and, in certain contexts like cruelty and malpractice, the state that has the final word. For another, in every situation the veterinarian can, indeed is required to, “exercise . . . her or his professional judgment”—and H.B. 344 no more impinges on that judgment than do any of the other laws and professional constraints governing the practice of veterinary medicine.]
Indeed, a good place to begin exercising that “professional judgment” is by every veterinarian in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts refusing to “devocalize” any dog (or cat)—a moral stand which should be strongly supported by the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association.

That association now has an opportunity to reverse its indefensible position and support the Bill in the Massachusetts Senate and thereby redeem itself.