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NEW: Senate Leader Ruggerio Introduces Legislation to Ban Animal Devocalization

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Calling it inhumane to take away an animal’s voice for any reason other than medical urgency, Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio has introduced legislation to regulate devocalization of dogs and cats.

Devocalization, also known as “debarking,” is a surgical procedure that permanently takes away the ability for dogs and cats to bark and purr. Instead of a loud audible bark or purr, a hoarse raspy whisper will be produced. To perform the surgery, a direct incision at the animal’s neck is made, and vocal cords are taken out. Risks involved include difficulty breathing, chronic gagging, pneumonia and infection.

“This act is inhumane for any animal to go through. It is more inhumane to realize that, most often, it is for the benefit of the pet’s owner or breeder. This act should be restricted to a medical necessity,” said Senator Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence).

Legislation introduced by Senator Ruggerio, 2012-S 2193, would allow devocalization in the state only if a licensed veterinarian has deemed it a medical necessity for the animal. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture.

Owners sometimes seek the procedure for a variety of reasons, said Senator Ruggerio, but it is more often breeders who have dogs and cats devocalized for their own convenience. Devocalizing enables breeders to keep large numbers of pets in their home, with minimal noise. It is also done to allow dog show exhibitors to transport animals without much noise.

The procedure is outlawed as a form of mutilation in nations, such as the United Kingdom, that have signed the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. Massachusetts became the first state to ban devocalization when, in 2010, the state enacted “Logan’s Law,” named for a debarked sheepdog.

Under the Ruggerio proposal, only licensed veterinarians in the state, using anesthesia, would be allowed to surgically debark or silence a dog or cat upon certification the procedure is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease or injury or correct a congenital abnormality that is causing harm or pain to the animal.

Any person found in violation would face a fine of $1,000 and could be barred by a court from owning or possession of any animals and required to take humane education, pet ownership and dog training classes. Any person or business selling a dog or cat for profit would be required to disclose whether the animal has been devocalized and provide a veterinarian-signed certificate showing the procedure was done for medical necessity.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown), Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick).

Majority Leader Ruggerio has introduced two other pieces of legislation this session relating to animals and animal husbandry.

2012-S 2191 would prohibit the unlawful confinement of calves raised for veal or sows during gestation in a manner that prevents them from turning around freely, lying down, standing up or fully extending their limbs.

2012-S 2192 would prohibit the docking of the tails of a bovine by anyone other than a veterinarian for veterinary purposes.

Both bills are also before the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture.


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