ISAR’s Model Anti-Devocalization Statute

ISAR’s Model Statute Prohibiting Devocalization1

The Legislature hereby declares that it intends by the enactment of this statute to provide for the public health, safety, welfare and morals by prohibiting the veterinary practice of devocalization.

The Legislature finds that devocalization affects the public health, safety, welfare, and morals by, among other consequences, contributing to the overpopulation of dogs and cats, increased levels of euthanasia, and costly animal control expenditures.

The Legislature finds also that devocalization affects the public health, safety, welfare, and morals by fostering the indefensible belief that the practice’s brutal treatment of dogs and cats is humane and morally acceptable.

Section 1. Prohibition

(a) No person within this jurisdiction shall surgically or by any other means devocalize a dog or cat, or cause, or allow others to cause, the devocalizing of a dog or cat, unless a veterinarian licensed in this state shall have first filed a written certification with the county clerk stating that devocalizing 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, pain or suffering.

Section 2. Written certification

(a) The written certification described in Section 1 shall contain (i) the date and description of the veterinarian’s examination and evaluation of the dog or cat, (ii) a statement certifying that devocalizing 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, pain or suffering(iii) any supporting diagnosis and findings, (iv) the name and current address and telephone number of the dog or cat’s owner or keeper, and (v) the name and current address and telephone number, state license number, and signature of the veterinarian.

Section 3. Veterinarians

(a) No person except a veterinarian licensed in this state, using anesthesia sufficient to eliminate all pain, may devocalize a dog or cat.

Section 4. Penalties

(a) Any person in violation of this statute shall be punished by not more than eighteen months in jail, or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both.

(b) Any person convicted under this statute may be ordered to submit to a mental health evaluation as determined by the court and undergo any recommended counseling or treatment.

(c) In addition to any other penalty provided by law, any person convicted under this section may be barred from owning or possessing any animals, or residing on the same property with someone who owns or possesses animals, for a period of time deemed appropriate by the court, and may be further required to take humane education, pet ownership and dog training classes as ordered by the court.

Section 5. Sale or gift of devocalized animals

(a) Anyone selling, gifting or otherwise transferring ownership or possession of a dog or cat shall disclose to the recipient whether the dog or cat has been devocalized and provide the recipient with a copy of the veterinarian certification required by Section 3.

Section 6. Definition

(a) As used in this statute, “devocalize” and any word derived there from, is defined as “any procedure performed on the larynx or vocal chords of a dog or cat causing the reduction or elimination of vocal sounds produced by that animal and includes procedures commonly referred to as “debarking,” “silencing” or “bark softening.”

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1 ISAR’s proposed Model Statute Prohibiting Devocalization draws almost entirely on the Massachusetts law enacted several years ago. ISAR’s Model Statute is drafted for the state level. With appropriate adjustments, the statute can be used at any other level of government.