Warwick City Council Bans Devocalization

dog and catOn March 14, 2011 the Warwick, Rhode Island City Council voted 8-1 to approve an ordinance to ban devocalization of dogs and cats in the city.

Previously, the city council rejected an amendment that would have made the law unenforceable.

Under the amendment devocalization would have been allowed for "behavioral" reasons. That means devocalization could have been done for any reason. With that amendment, there would have been no point to the bill. 

Prior to the vote, the all volunteer, grass roots Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets led an effort to have the amendment removed from the proposal. City Council members credited the calls and emails from advocates for defeating the amendment and passing the bill. Thank you–to everyone who took action! The Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets led the successful effort in Massachusetts to enact a statewide ban on devocalization of dogs and cats. The MA law is the first, enforceable ban on devocalization in the U.S.  Go here for more on the MA law, the opposition mounted by breeders and the state veterinary association, and the cruelty of devocalization.

The Warwick bill’s sponsor is Council member Joseph Solomon.

The one dissenting voice, Council member Camille Vella-Wilkinson, has said her district hosts many dog shows. Dog show exhibitors and breeders most commonly have animals devocalized. They do it for their own convenience and profit. Devocalization enables breeders to keep large numbers of dogs or cats in their home for breeding with minimal noise. It is done to allow dog show exhibitors to transport animals around without noise.

Devocalization enables the breeders, show dog exhibitors and the vets willing to perform this act of cruelty, to profit at the expense of the animal. One of Animal Law Coalition’s Rhode Island members reported that she couldn’t find a reputable vet who would perform this cruel procedure simply for the convenience of the breeders; it’s the few greedy vets and the state veterinary organization that protects them that makes this animal cruelty possible.

Also, devocalization does not mean the animal will be saved from euthanasia in a shelter or be able to find a happy home. 

Just the opposite.

Most of the devocalized animals located by members of the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets were found in shelters where they had been dumped by breeders.

In fact, devocalization does not address the reasons a dog may be barking or a cat crying.  Because the animal’s distress, anxiety, illness, poor training, or whatever is causing the barking or crying, has not been addressed, it is likely to manifest in other worse behaviors, like biting or soiling in the house, increasing the likelihood the animal is given to a shelter. Also, there are risks with devocalization especially buildup of scar tissue that mean the procedure must often be done more than once. There can be side effects like airway obstruction, paralysis of the larynx, choking, gagging, coughing, etc. The more vet bills to treat side effects or complications, the more likely the animal will end up in a shelter. After all, if an owner doesn’t want to hear an animal, it’s unlikely the owner will spend money to pay vets to treat complications from the procedure.

Devocalized animals are given up like any other and actually barking is not typically a reason dogs are surrendered to shelters.