Opinion Brief

Is 'de-barking' dogs cruel?

Yes, some people have their dogs' vocal cords cut to quiet them down. Is the operation ever justified?

Increasingly, frantic dog owners — especially those with easily angered neighbors — are opting to surgically sever their yappy dogs' vocal cords, a controversial procedure known as "de-barking." Proponents say the operation, which leaves the pooch with a muffled or raspy bark, doesn't affect personality or mood. But critics, including animal-rights groups and many veterinarians, denounce de-barking as unnecessary, dangerous, and cruel. Is it ever acceptable to deprive dogs of the right to speak? (Watch a report about the new world's tallest dog)

Is this any worse than other ways we customize our dogs?
De-barking "sounds horribly cruel," says John Homans in New York Magazine, but Americans "pick and choose features of their dogs the same way they like to order off the menu in restaurants." Who's to say de-barking is more cruel than, say, neutering your dog — which is "considered akin to mutilation" in Sweden?
"The de-barking debate"

De-barking is undoubtedly "cruel": Do these owners realize they're also depriving themselves of the ability to fully interact with their pets, asks Dierdre Wengen at Philly Burbs. "I like listening to my dog bark" when we play together — indeed, his "bark is a part of who he is, and I love it."
"The debate about de-barking"

Hold on — what about cruelty to neighbors?
As someone who's endured a "maniacally barking" dog-next-door more than once, says Frank James at NPR. "I have to admit that the notion of responsible dog owners 'de-barking' their non-stop yappers has a certain appeal." Sure, the surgery has its "ethical dimensions," but at least de-barked dogs can still defend themselves — unlike declawed cats.
"'De-barking' dogs: An ethical dilemma"

There are better options: In terms of animal welfare, cat declawing and dog de-barking are comparable, says veterinarian Patricia Khuly in Dolittler, but de-barking carries a much greater risk of death or serious complication and so is deeply out of favor with vets. If barking is an issue for you, by all means give your dog to someone with land — "lots of exercise does work" — and replace your pet with a less-vocal breed.
"'Heel. Sit. Whisper. Good Dog.' On de-barking in dogs"

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