Rhode Island Bill Seeks to Virtually Eliminate Devocalization Veterinary Procedure

Rhode Island Bill Seeks to Virtually Eliminate Devocalization Veterinary Procedure


Rhode Island Senate Bill 2193 seeks to virtually eliminate the veterinary procedure commonly known as debarking from being performed in the state. In the interest of protecting dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) opposes Senate Bill 2193. It is imperative that all responsible dog breeders and owners in Rhode Island contact the members of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee, which will consider the bill on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, and urge them to vote against the measure.

In 2010, the AKC Board of Directors adopted the following position statement on debarking:

Debarking is a viable veterinary procedure that may allow a dog owner to keep a dog that barks excessively in its loving home rather than to be forced to surrender it to a shelter. Debarking should only be performed by a qualified, licensed veterinarian after other behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive barking have failed. As with other veterinary medical decisions, the decision to debark a dog is best left to individual owners and their veterinarians.

The AKC believes that much misinformation exists about devocalization of dogs. This procedure, which is performed by a veterinarian using laser or biopsy technology, is safe and relatively non-invasive. It is an acceptable medical procedure that is often done as a “last resort” when all other methods of modifying a dog’s behavior have failed. For many responsible owners, debarking is the only alternative to euthanizing or surrendering their canine companion to a local shelter when their pet’s noisy behavior continually disrupts the community.

The American Veterinary Medical Association also shares these concerns. “Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed.” (Read more here).

If enacted, SB 2193 would:

  • Restrict veterinarians from performing a devocalization procedure unless they file an extensive written certification with an animal control officer that the procedure is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury, or correct a congenital abnormality that will cause the dog medical harm or pain. In contrast, the AKC believes that debarking is a viable veterinary procedure that can save the lives of animals, and should not be restricted from that important goal.
  • Impose stiff penalties for violators, including a fine of up to $1,000; a possible barring from ownership of animals, or living on the same property with someone who owns animals, for a time to be determined by a court; and requiring humane education, pet ownership, and dog training classes. This erroneously suggests that the process is inhumane. Moreover, any penalty that impacts an individual’s housing options is unreasonable and unnecessary.
  • Require any person selling a dog for profit to disclose whether the dog has been surgically debarked and provide the purchaser with a copy of the required veterinary certification. Such certifications will be impossible to provide if the procedure is performed by a veterinarian outside of Rhode Island.



Concerned Rhode Island residents are encouraged to contact the members of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee and respectfully request that they oppose Senate Bill 2193.

Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, Chair
E-mail: sen-sosnowski@rilin.state.ri.us

Senator William A. Walaska, Vice Chair
E-mail: sen-walaska@rilin.state.ri.us

Senator Nicholas D. Kettle, Secretary
E-mail: sen-kettle@rilin.state.ri.us

Senator David E. Bates
E-mail: sen-bates@rilin.state.ri.us

Senator Daniel DaPonte
E-mail: sen-daponte@rilin.state.ri.us

Senator Maryellen Goodwin
E-mail: sen-goodwin@rilin.state.ri.us

Senator Michael J. McCaffrey
E-mail: sen-mccaffrey@rilin.state.ri.us

For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720, or e-mail doglaw@akc.org.