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Mass. Lawmakers Take Stand Against Unnecessary Devocalization of Dogs and Cats

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the veterinary affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, applauds Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for signing into law H.B. 344, a measure that bans the non-therapeutic devocalization of dogs and cats in the state of Massachusetts. The law includes an exemption for the rare instances in which devocalization surgeries are necessary for medical reasons.

"Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature have demonstrated their leadership role in promoting the welfare of companion animals by adopting H.B. 344 and taking a stand against these unnecessary and potentially harmful surgical procedures," said Dr. Barbara Hodges of HSVMA. More than 210 individual Massachusetts veterinarians joined HSVMA in endorsing the legislation, which was sponsored by the grassroots animal protection group, Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets.

HSVMA supported H.B. 344 as part of its campaign to end the practice of performing unnecessary cosmetic and convenience surgical procedures, such as devocalization, ear cropping, tail docking and cat declawing, on companion animals. 

HSVMA's focus is to educate pet owners about the risks involved in such procedures and the available alternatives. For example, devocalization exposes the animal patient to the possibilities of infection, blood loss, the risks of anesthesia and can lead to scarred vocal cord tissue regrowth known as "webbing." Potential long-term physical consequences include chronic coughing and gagging, breathing difficulties and exercise intolerance.

"There are other, much more humane ways to deal with barking and other vocalization issues than subjecting an animal to a risky and painful procedure," said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and HSVMA Leadership Council Member. "Since boredom and a sedentary lifestyle are often the cause of excessive vocalization, environmental enrichment, obedience training, exercise and humane behavior modification can be utilized to address the problem rather than attempting to surgically alter the animal."

For more on the devocalization issue, click here.


The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association was formed as a home for veterinary professionals who want to join together to speak out for animals, engage in direct care programs for animals in need, and educate the public and others in the profession about animal welfare issues. The HSVMA is an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.

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