Cats and dogs; requires veterinarians to keep records of devocalization procedures, penalty. (HB2195)

Introduced By

Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Devocalization of cats and dogs; penalty.  Requires veterinarians to keep records of devocalization procedures, and provides that any person, including a licensed veterinarian, who performs a surgical devocalization on a cat or dog when such procedure is not necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease, or injury or to correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or may cause the animal physical pain or harm, is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/12/2011Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/12/11 11100582D
01/12/2011Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/18/2011Assigned Courts sub: #1 Criminal
01/19/2011Impact statement from VCSC (HB2195)
01/19/2011Impact statement from DPB (HB2195)
02/08/2011Left in Courts of Justice


Janet Stanley writes:

This procedure DOES NOT hurt dogs. I have debarked my shelties for over 35 years and never had it affect their personality or their health. It is a 10 minute procedure. Shelties are a barking breed and I keep peace with my neighbors and don't have to worry that my dogs might be taken away from me and possibly euthanized because of their barking. Debarking is a humane procedure that allows people to live in urban environments without disturbing their neighbors. It is far more humane than shock collars or other methods of trying to keep a dog from barking (which in some breeds is their natural instinct).

robert legge writes:

A felony to de-meow a cat without medical reason? Reminds me of the droopy drawers bill.

Animals are ANIMALS writes:

Janet, you should not have the privilege of owning dogs. Since you write stupid internet posts that I don't agree with, can I cut your fingers off? Of course not. You and I are both allowed to post things that someone else doesn't agree with. If you're going to have a dog, let me give you a head's up: THEY BARK. They're dogs. It's what they do. What if someone took away YOUR ability to verbally communicate? If you're going to live somewhere that some barking might annoy your neighboys, then maybe you shouldn't have a dog breed that tends to bark a lot. Or train your dogs not to bark as much. Or buy a magical $40 machine that lets off a high-pitched noise every time your dog barks. It doesn't harm the dog, just annoys and startles them. They learn very quickly that barking = annoying noise and they stop barking! It's like magic! I hope no one ever trusts a dog to your care again. De-vocalization is inhumane.

Janet Stanley writes:

Unfortunately, Animals are ANIMALS doesn't get it. We are both saying the same thing. Shelties bark. And my shelties bark too - just not the high-pitched raucous sound that tends to draw neighbors attention. I have had shelties for 40 plus years and am considered in my area, a respected well-educated sheltie owner who has trained many shelties over the years for performance events and the show ring. I'VE NEVER HAD ANYONE TELL ME THAT I DON'T DESERVE TO OWN DOGS. My dogs sleep in my bedroom and share my house as well as having a huge fenced in backyard to run and romp in. My vet bills probably exceed your annual salary. Ask my vet whether my dogs are well-taken care of and grow up a little and learn that what you are saying to me sounds very immature and not well-thought out.

Furthermore, in my opinion, whether or not to debark a dog should be no one's business but the owner and their vet.

Are we at the point where the state wants to regulate every breath we take??????

Alice Harrington writes:

This bill proposes to turn veterinarians who perform a simple and useful surgical procedure into felons. The bill assumes that surgically softening a dog’s bark is inhumane. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this procedure often saves dogs’ lives since they don’t have to be turned in for disturbing neighbors or violating condo and homeowners’ association rules. In other words, bark softening allows dogs to stay in their homes and not be a nuisance to the neighbors.

I own Shetland Sheepdogs, better known as Shelties. They are a very vocal herding breed and they love to bark--especially in groups. When you live in close proximity to your neighbors (I live in Arlington) loudly barking dogs can be a problem. All of my dogs have been surgically bark softened. They are normal, fun loving dogs with a variety of obedience titles.

There are many myths and inaccuracies surrounding this procedure. The label “devocalization” is an incorrect term. My dogs “vocalize” all the time – they just do it with less volume. They have a variety of barks, growls, alert tones, play barks, whines – just like any dog.

Below are some FAQs on this topic.

Q: How is bark softening done?
A: This is a minor surgical procedure to reduce tissue in the vocal chords. Some vets use a biopsy punch to remove a small amount of tissue. Other surgeons use a laser for the same purpose. The vocal chords are not removed. The surgery lowers the volume of the dog's bark and the tendency for the sound to carry over a wide area. This procedure is sometimes incorrectly referred to as devocalization. It does not remove the dog’s voice. It is more accurately called bark softening. The actual procedure is quick (one to two minutes) and recovery is also quick (an hour). There is no bleeding. There are no stitches. Dogs eat their normal diet the same day. The procedure is not nearly as serious or invasive as a spay or neuter operation.

Q: Does the procedure remove the dog's ability to bark?
A: No. Dogs continue to bark. What bark softening does is lower the volume of the bark so that it does not carry to a neighbor's yard.

Q. Is it true dogs with softened barks cannot communicate any longer?
A. No. This is myth. Dogs continue to bark, whine and vocalize in all the ways dogs do.

Q: Is this a "cruel and barbaric procedure?"
A: No. This procedure is simple and it saves lives of dogs that might otherwise be dumped in the pound for their barking. In modern society, with heavily built-up neighborhoods, sometimes any barking can cause problems between neighbors.

Q: Do dogs suffer emotionally from bark softening?
A: It is a myth to suggest dogs are emotionally disturbed by having their barks softened. They can bark. They don't seem to notice that their barks are softer. Bark softened dogs that are not being constantly disciplined for barking, in fact, tend to be much happier dogs.

Q: Is it true that only criminals and drug dealers debark dogs?
A: This is the biggest myth about bark softening. The majority of people who bark soften their dogs are responsible dog owners looking for a safe and effective way to deal with dogs whose barks are so piercing that they can be heard for miles around.

Q: Is it true you can train any dog not to bark?
A: I challenge dog behaviorists to train a group of Shelties and some cold weather dogs like Huskies not to bark. Shelties love to bark–especially in a group. It is part of who they are. This can be true of any group of dogs.

Q: Do people bark soften their dogs just to avoid training their dogs?
A: The majority of people have run out of options and are trying to be good neighbors. We are not talking about people who are irresponsible and leave their dogs out all night or ignore chronic barking. We are talking about people who are faced with having to move or having to give up their dog. A piercing bark, even on limited occasions, can be sufficient to cause a war in built-up residential neighborhoods.

Kathleen Schlenz writes:

I oppose the passing of HB2195. Softening the bark of a dog who would otherwise be considered a 'public nuisance', should not be a crime. The procedure does not hurt the dog anymore than doing a spay/neuter, and allows the owner to keep his pet in an otherwise 'hostile' neighbor enviroment. No one wants to hear a dog barking non-stop, but collies and shelties love to bark. My sheltie runs out into the yard each morning, barking with joy at the new day. Thankfully his bark is soft and so he can still enjoy the barking but without waking the neighbors up. I would imagine this would help keep people from bringing barking dogs to pet shelters or, in the worse case, euthanizing them.

Barbara writes:

I have been in shelties for over 40 years, some have had the bark softened but by no means does it make them a lesser dog. I hear them and I know which one it is they just dont have the high pitch that goes right thru you. My dogs have always been happy and have lived long lives, the average being 15 to 16 yrs. Those that do not believe in bark softening I wonder what they would do if they had to hear the dogs barking near them everyday. I bet they would call animal control. The procedure is in the a.m. and by p.m. they are eating their dinner and after that romping and playing.

Wiking41 writes:

Another bill based upon emotions and thinking that animals are no different that people. More legislation written by people that have no clue what they are doing.

Bark softening is a proceedure that does the dog no harm when done by a qualified vet. Is hooking up a collar that gives the dog a electric shock or sprays their face with chemical compund every time they bark a more humane solution, I think not.

Do I want my neighbors complaining to animal control over a barking dog, again no. Nor do I want my neighbors deciding to handle the problem by tossing some poisoned meat into my yard.

Since I am not in a position where I can go off live on a hundred acre tract in the middle of nowhere, much as I would like, and I am not going to surrender my dogs, I choose to have my guys bark softened by a vet.

Are there problems on rare occasions. Yes, although never to any of my dogs, nor any dog I know of. Is every vet qualified to do this proceedure, no. But then not every surgeon is qualified to do open heart surgery.

Vicki Crew writes:

We have been raising collies for 15 years and have had several debarked. It doesn't take away the ability to bark; it simply softens the bark to a tolerable sound. This is a courtesy to our neighbors who live nearby in the Mechanicsville (Studley) area.
Any decision to debark should remain between the dog's owner and the vet--not the state.

Ann Rudd writes:

This is a cruel procedure. Why put animals thru surgery. Dogs bark and cats meow. Next we will be doing this to other species who make noises we do not like. But there are people who put electric boxes around dogs necks and they get a jolt when they bark-again cruel-people should not play God.