Massachusetts bans devocalizing dogs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
BOSTON–Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick on April 24,
2010 signed into law An Act Prohibiting Devocalization, only the
second state law to ban debarking dogs, the first to cover almost
all dogs, and the first anti-devocalization law covering most dogs
to advance with a strong chance of passage since 2000.
“New Jersey has a law banning devocalization, but there are
a number of broad exceptions that make it generally unenforceable,”
explained Animal Law Coalition attorney Laura Allen, who drafted the
Massachusetts law. “The only exception in the Massachusetts law,”
Allen said, “is for medical necessity as determined by a licensed
veterinarian for disease, injury or a congenital condition that is
causing or could cause the animal harm or pain and suffering.”
The United Kingdom banned devocalization in 1993, along with
ear cropping, tail docking, and de-clawing cats.
Groups representing police and firefighters joined with
humane organizations in 2000 to push anti-debarking legislation in
California, New Jersey, and Ohio. Police and firefighters became
involved after several discoveries of devocalized pit bull terriers
guarding facilities used for the production and distribution of
illegal drugs. Because the dogs could not bark, law enforcement
agents only discovered their presence when the dogs attacked.
The California bill introduced in 2000 died due to the
concerted opposition of the American Veterinary Medical Association,
American Animal Hospital Association and the American SPCA. The New
Jersey and Ohio bills were weakened by amendment.
New Jersey now bans devocalization surgery except for medical
or therapeutic reasons, defined more broadly than in Massachusetts.
Ohio prohibits devocalizing only dogs who have killed or disfigured
humans or other animals, are pit bull terriers, or have otherwise
been designated dangerous.
The Massachusetts Veterinary Medi-cal Association led the
opposition to the Massachusetts Act Prohibiting Devocalization, but
the ASPCA and the Massachusetts SPCA endorsed the bill. Veterinary
societies mostly still oppose laws against devocalization, but
support for the procedure has weakened. Minnesota Board of
Veterinary Medicine executive director John King, for instance, in
2006 told Minneapolis Star Tribune intern Jenna Ross that there is no
good reason for devocalization.
The Massachusetts anti-devocalization bill was introduced
into the legislature in December 2008, as result of petitioning by
then-Needham High School freshman Jordan Star. Efforts were made to
promote it as “Logan’s Law,” named after a devocalized Belgian
sheepdog who was adopted from Texas by Friends of the Plymouth Pound
founder Gayle Fitzpatrick and her husband Tom.
However, “Logan’s Law” has been prominently used to describe
at least three other items of legislation. Still before Congress is
a “Logan’s Law” proposed by U.S. Representative Raymond Green
(D-Texas), which would require the addition of child safety features
to culverts. Introduced several times in West Virginia is a “Logan’s
Law” which would strengthen legislation against sexual predators who
prey upon children.
The original “Logan’s Law,” or “Logan Act,” was passed by
Congress in 1799 in opposition to diplomatic initiatives undertaken
by physician George Logan, who had intervened to help prevent war
between the U.S. and France in 1798. The law prevents U.S. citizens
from conducting unauthorized foreign relations. Still on the books,
updated in 1994, it has never been used to prosecute anyone. Logan
himself was later elected to the U.S. Senate, but was unable to get
“Logan’s Law” repealed.