Board reaffirms existing policy on canine devocalization

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Barking dogThe AVMA is keeping a policy that expresses opposition to canine devocalization, with exceptions, despite a previous proposal to make the objection more forceful.

The AVMA Board of Directors voted in November 2018 to reaffirm the policy, which the AVMA House of Delegates had considered revising in July 2018.

The Board adopted the policy "Canine Devocalization" for the first time in 2002, reaffirming the policy in 2008. The House revised the policy in 2013.

The current policy reads as follows: "Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to euthanasia after behavioral modification to correct excessive vocalization has failed and after discussion of potential complications from the procedure with the owner. When dogs are housed in groups (e.g. laboratories, breeding facilities, kennels) devocalization should not be used as an alternative to appropriate animal management and facility design."

In March 2018, the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee reviewed the policy as part of the five-year review cycle for all AVMA policies and recommended revisions to the Board, which forwarded the proposed revisions to the House as a resolution. According to the statement about the resolution, "This policy revision redirects the emphasis of the policy from the rare and marginal conditions under which devocalization may be ethically justified, to the need for AVMA to oppose convenience devocalization as a nontherapeutic procedure that negatively impacts the welfare of the dog."

The debate in the House revolved around health and welfare considerations, devocalization as an alternative to relinquishment or euthanasia, and legislative efforts to ban the procedure. Delegates decided to refer the proposal back to the Board for reconsideration.

In September 2018, the Animal Welfare Committee revisited the policy, recommending reaffirmation of the existing policy. According to background materials, the committee believes the most effective course of action is to couple the current policy with development of educational resources to aid AVMA members and clients struggling with undesirable barking.

Read the June 2018 literature review by the AVMA Animal Welfare Division on "Welfare Implications of Canine Devocalization."

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA debates over debarking (Sept. 1, 2018)

Devocalization as a final alternative (March 1, 2013)