Owners who took their dogs to have their vocal chords cut out claimed they didn’t know what to do in the face of neighbours’ noise complaints. When a stall opened at a market in Chengdu, China offering to perform debarking surgery on dogs, it didn’t take long for the authorities to act.
They demanded to see the practitioner’s veterinary license and – when he failed to prove his credentials – they closed down the operation.
But by then the floor was littered with vocal chords freshly cut out of anaesthetised dogs. Each dog which underwent the operation will never be able to use their voice to communicate ever again. Their natural barks will be replaced with an eerie wheezing sound.
Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:
“Bodily mutilation such as this is clearly hugely damaging to a dog’s welfare and quality of life. It is well known that dogs are social animals and their bark is a key part of communication. They rely on their voice to communicate with both animals and people.Imagine the psychological trauma of a debarked dog trying to alert another dog or his guardian to danger and not being able to vocalise – it’s literally the stuff of nightmares. A key natural behaviour is completely destroyed.”
Yet amazingly, many of the customers who brought their companion animals to be debarked, didn’t realise how much damage they were doing. They claim their dog’s barking had become a nuisance and neighbours’ complaints had forced them to take action. Tragically, they just didn’t know what else to do. In China, as in many countries such as the majority of the US, debarking can legally be carried out by a qualified vet in regulated conditions.
Animals Asia’s Cat and Dog Welfare Director Irene Feng said:
“While legal, debarking is not common in China and we have to congratulate the authorities for being quick to close down this unlicensed practitioner. But this case has highlighted that education is key – we can’t afford to be complacent about responsible companion animal ownership.”
Companion animal ownership has exploded in China in recent years, with 100 million animals – mainly dogs and cats – registered as of 2015. While this change has fuelled an increase in animal welfare awareness and respect for non-human animals, it has also raised social challenges.
“Raising awareness about animal welfare and responsible companion animal ownership is absolutely vital in China right now. Responsible guardians must look to understand why a dog is barking, and train them not to bark in certain situations if necessary. The ‘quick-fix’ debarking surgery does nothing to address the root of the dogs’ vocalisation. Barking is a behaviour that comes out of many emotions, including, frustration, excitement, boredom and angst. Understanding problem barking and looking at changing the dogs’ environment, our own dog management or seeking behavioural specialists can be difficult, but it is in the best interest of the dog, the guardian and the public.”
To help improve the lives of companion animals in China, Animals Asia produced an award-winning animated video, Animal Welfare Around Us, which has taught thousands of people how to give their beloved companion the best possible care.
In addition, the latest case of debarking has led the Hong Kong-based NGO’s Chengdu sanctuary – the China Bear Rescue Centre – to plan to introduce education on debarking surgery to their veterinary training programmes for Chinese vets. The China Bear Rescue Centre currently provides vet training to around 80 vets in Chengdu to provide skills in anaesthesia, pain relief, animal handling and animal welfare. The charity aims to expand the programme significantly in 2018 to up to 300 vets. By ensuring these trainee vets are well-informed about the inherent cruelty of debarking a dog for convenience, Animals Asia hopes to prevent the procedure being unnecessarily performed by Chengdu vets. The classes will also cover alternative management methods for excessive vocalisation
Animals Asia Senior Veterinarian Emily Drayton said:
“The risks of performing this procedure are alarming. There is a massive risk of infection due to unsanitary and non-sterile conditions, while secondary infection can lead to other complications like fistulas, bleeding, aspiration, and tissue necrosis. Long-term effects including narrowing of the airway, chronic coughing and regurgitation. All vets need to understand the reality of what this operation involves and we will ensure that those vets completing our training courses in Chengdu will turn their backs on it and be able to speak from a position of knowledge when advising peers and the public to do the same. At the same time, if confronted by one of the rare instances when devocalisation surgery is necessary for medical reasons – such as removing a cancerous tumour – then these vets will know exactly what kind of post-operative care their patients require.”
Animals Asia is devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam. They promote compassion and respect for all animals and work to bring about long-term change. Founded in 1998, the Animals Asia team has been rescuing bears since 1994 and is the only organisation with a bear sanctuary in China. The founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, Dr.med.vet. h.c., Hon LLD is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on the cruel bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993. Animals Asia has worked to end the barbaric bear bile trade, which sees over 10,000 bears – mainly moon bears but also sun bears and brown bears – kept on bile farms in China, and around 1,000 in Vietnam. It has rescued more than 600 bears from the industry since it was established.Animals Asia has worked to end the trade in dogs and cats for food in China, and lobbied to improve the welfare of companion animals and promote humane population management. Animals Asia has campaigned for an end to abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in South East Asia, and worked closely with governing authorities to improve animal management and increase awareness of the welfare needs of captive animals.