For some, their dog’s or cat’s bark or meow, respectively, is so annoying they opt for devocalization — the surgical removal of the animal’s vocal cords — leaving the pet with nothing but a pathetic wheeze for communication. In Maryland, that practice will soon be a thing of the past — except when medically indicated — thanks to a bill passed earlier this month that was lost underneath flashier legislation. (Thanks, Maryland Reporter, for pointing it out!)
Beginning on October 1, unauthorized devocalization will carry a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in prison for a first offense. Repeat offenders will face a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison. Man, those obedience classes aren’t looking so expensive anymore!
While many are celebrating Maryland’s passage of a “real devocalization ban” — without nullifying loopholes — given the procedure’s persistent side effects and risk of inducing behavior problems, there are some who worry about the effect of the ban. William Erskine, of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, worries that with devocalization off the table, more pets may wind up in shelters where they will risk euthanasia.
What constitutes a ‘repeat offense’ under this bill? Is re-vocalization possible? Is a taxpayer supposed to undo the devocalization procedure or risk ‘repeat offenses’? Or are repeat offenses limited to separate animals? I’ve wondered what’s to prevent traffic police from issuing countless tickets to a poor sap with a broken taillight who’s just trying to get home following the first ticket….Presumably this bill will supersede local county ordinances against persistent, problem barking, which is a shame speaking as a resident of a townhouse intensive neighborhood where dog barking can interrupt sleep.
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