Stop Devocalization Now

i September 18, 2012



A Project of International Society for Animal Rights



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




Opponents and proponents


ISAR’s Model Anti-Devocalization Statute

Suggested Letter-to-the-Editor and others

Veterinarian/behaviorist non-devocalization support and pledge

Initiative and referendum


Anti-devocalization efforts abroad



Law and Legislation

Existing domestic anti-devocalization legislation


New Jersey

Warwick, Rhode Island

Newtown, Ohio


Pending anti-devocalization legislation



Failed anti-devocalization legislative attempts


New York

Cranston, Rhode Island



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 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.


Susan Dapsis
President, ISAR