Is Declawing or Debarking The Answer?


Declawing and debarking are operations that some pet owners may consider for their pets. Serious consideration should be taken before you have these procedures done.

It would make for a perfect world if your cat did not scratch up all your furniture or your dog would not bark at all hours of the night. But as you know we do not live in a perfect world. If you have pets in your home you should already realize that this is their normal behavior. They are simply doing what comes natural to them. With consistent training their behavior can be modified.

If your husband, wife or children just talked too much, would it be acceptable to have their vocal cords cut? No matter how much we would like to do this sometimes, it is just not the way the world works.

I will not deny that I am opposed to either procedure unless absolutely necessary for medical reasons. It’s hard to assess pain in cats and dogs. So we can only assume there is a great deal of pain having either surgical procedure based on our knowledge of pain after surgery.

I recently came across a poll taken October 13-20, 2010 that I found very interesting. GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications conducted The Associated poll “Is declawing or debarking the answer?”. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 pet owners nationwide. (Results for all pet owners have a margin of sampling error plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

Nearly 60 percent of American pet owners, including 55 percent of cat owners, say it is OK to have a cat declawed, but only 8 percent approve of having a dog’s vocal cords removed, according to an Associated poll.
Experts say both surgeries are painful and alter the way the animals walk or talk.

Declawing a cat “is amputation. If you look at your fingers, declawing would be like amputating the last section of each finger. If you were declawed, you would have 10 little short fingers. It’s amputation times 10,” said veterinarian Louise Murray, vice president of the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. The hospital is part of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

One participant said she had a cat declawed once and shortly afterward he died. She stated that he was in agony the whole time and it broke her heart that she had it done.

“It’s not cruel to declaw your cats,” another participant said. “They do not know they’ve been declawed. They made the same kneading movements. The recovery process was very short. They never showed any sign of pain,”

Thirty-two percent of the cat owners polled have had their pets declawed.

It is interesting that cat owners are more apt than others to favor a law banning the declawing of cats — 24 percent favor such a law, 16 percent strongly.

Ninety percent of pet owners oppose removing a dog’s vocal cords. Forty-seven percent would favor a law making the procedure illegal, while 44 percent would oppose a law.

Last July, Massachusetts became the first state to ban elective devocalization surgeries for cats or dogs. Violations are punishable under the state’s animal cruelty laws. Virginia lawmakers are considering a similar measure.

Of dog owners who took part in the poll, only 1 percent reported having the procedure done on their pet. There was no difference between dog owners and others who were asked if it was OK — 89 percent who own dogs said no.

Veteran dog trainer and behaviorist Jonathan Klein of Culver City, Calif., would support a state ban on debarking because even though 90 percent sounds like a lot, it still means that for every 900,000 dog owners who oppose it, there are 100,000 who would not, he said.

The ability to bark allows dogs to communicate with humans and other animals. The barking dog can be beneficial to us in many ways. There are many vets that refuse to do debarking surgery.

Another poll taker stated that her dog, an English Lab mix, is 2 and barks very little. She has not had her vocal cords removed, but “our neighbor has 40 dogs and quite a few of them are devocalized because of barking and howling,” she said.

Debarking can fix the problem quickly, but the same result can be achieved by working with a dog to find the cause and begin behavioral training.

The ASPCA opposes declawing, debarking, defanging, ear cropping and tail docking — any elective surgery done to conform to breed standard or eliminate undesirable behavior — except in extreme circumstances. There are adoption facilities that say no declawing as a condition of adoption.

There are pros and cons for a law to ban declawing and debarking. People feel it should be a decision left up to the owners. Some feel there has got to be a limit on how much government interferes.

There are two sides to every coin and each of us must make our own judgment call when it comes to having our pet declawed or devocalized.


About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi spent her time working in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions.


  1. Sadly debarking is a last resort when behavior modification will not work. Our pets just cannot understand as well as a human can, so this is a necessary evil. I am sad to say I resorted to this for one of my dogs when I lived out in Sacramento Ca with my first wife.

  2. I think its really sad that some people choose to debark their dog. It’s just a natural instinct for a dog after all. And the animal is more than likely just trying to communicate something that we can’t possibly understand.

  3. Debarking mother-in-law? Hm, that is very tempting concept … LOL

    On a serious note though, I think we [humans] really seem to prefer solving our problems by “cutting things off”. Considering ourselves the superior species, we should really do better.

  4. 60% of cat owners think it’s okay to have their cats declawed? Have they seen the horrible images of how this is done? Of the extraordinary pain many of them experience for the rest of their lives!!! ouch! this is astonishing. Why in the world are people even having pets if they want them declawed and debarked. Really. why?

  5. I think other than the raw food vs commercial food controversy this is the next most debated issue in the pet community.
    I almost hate to post my opinions on these subjects because its like no matter what I say I’m waiting to be attacked by a person who does not share the same opinions as me.
    I will say bottom line I will admit both come down to good training. You can train a cat where to claw & you can train a dog not to bark. Both come down to basic instinct.
    That being said here I go opening myself up to attack…..(please be gentle).
    I have only known one person who had their dog(s) debarked. It was about 10 years ago & the reasoning behind it was insane! The woman owned 5-6 Shetland sheepdogs. All adults & all very intelligent sweet dogs. And believe it or not the owner was a groomer. She had all of them debarked. WHY???!! Because the barking of 5-6 dogs bothered her. I think the barking of 5-6 dogs is something that a special pet owner can handle & accept. It takes a special person to own that many dogs. But you can’t get upset with the consequences of owning that many dogs. These dogs were so smart with good training they could have been easily trained not to bark or to only bark when appropriate.
    My sisters dog has been in training not to bark – are they having issues – yes. The dog would bark if a leaf blew by. (Gotta love terriers! LOL) They are trying to train her to bark only once or twice tops if somebody comes to the door or comes in. Its been a very hard long process but the dog is getting better. But I can’t see having her debarked! As they still rely on her as an alarm & as a guard dog. So I really don’t agree with it unless it is medically necessary , of which I have never heard of.
    Okay on to the declaw issue….yes I have declawed my cats. I am also a veterinary assistant & have assisted with a lot of the procedures. So yes I know exactly what is involved! ALL of my cats were declawed as kittens before the cartilage forms. Yes I agree declawing a cat over 6 months old is a painful procedure that I can see as mangling. In essence it is like cutting a boney substance from the digit. But with a kitten you are removing something that hasn’t formed yet. And I’m sorry but any vet who can’t handle a simple declaw & screws it up has to be a retard! Its one of the simplest surgical procedures next to a neutering!
    There I said my peace, and hope I didn’t upset or offend anybody. As that was not my intent.

    Shannon Cole
    Shannon’s Pet-Sitting
    “Quality Pet Care in the Comfort of Their Own Home”

    PHONE: (847) 987-4322

  6. Ysabelle Lawrence on

    As for me, I don’t agree with declawing or debarking. Why have a dog in the first place if you are not prepared of the possible that they’ll bark. right? Well, its just my opinion. Great post! 🙂

  7. Turn Your Pet Into A Well Behaved Family Member on

    Both of these procedures are cruel. People should consider these issues before getting a pet, instead of surgically modifying the animal to be more convenient to them. Cat claws can be kept trimmed, and they even have vinyl tips that can be glued onto their claws to minimize damage.

  8. A neighbor had a beagle that would not stop barking while they were gone to work all day. They didn’t have the patience to train the dog and daily complaints brougt the local authorites to give them an alternative surrender the dog, or debark him.
    The family chose to debark after which time the dog just wasn’t the same. It’s unnatural to debark or declaw.

  9. i would never declaw my pets. It seems wrong… don’t have pets if you don’t like them scratching your home.
    60% of cat owners think it’s okay to have their cats declawed..I don’t think this is correct.

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