In fact, the right answer here is NO, declawing or debarking should not ever be the answer.
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 a civilized 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, but we can surely 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 Press-Petside.com 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 Press-Petside.com 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.