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Some Dog Lovers Make A Push To Stop 'Debarking' Surgery

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) - Dog debarking surgery is being performed at animal hospitals across the country, including Colorado, but at least one veterinarian told CBS4 it is a touchy issue.

Castle Rock resident Dawn Hern told CBS4 she had no choice but the surgery because her dog simply would not stop barking.

Most cities have a noise ordinance, and Hern had already received complaints, fines and even a court summons about her barking dog. She doesn't care who thinks she's cruel; she simply didn't want her dog taken away from her.

Lucy Lou was Hern's family dog. But like the saying, her bark was worse than her bite -- and it was causing problems in her neighborhood. Castle Rock has a five minute barking ordinance. After five minutes it's considered a nuisance.

"We had a neighbor that did not like dogs barking and she was a barker," Hern said.

The Herns had her undergo a surgical procedure.

"We had her vocal chords snipped," Hern said. "It was kind of funny actually because she really thinks she's barking. You get this great big huge 200 pound dog and it (barks softly)," Hern said.

But not everyone is laughing.

"With a debark, I'm not a fan of them. At this hospital I can't remember the last one we've done," Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of Alameda East Hospital said.

Fitzgerald has performed debark surgeries as a last resort in the past, but he's concerned about the ethics issue.

"Debarking dogs is really an emotional topic. Dogs bark, dogs bark for attention, dogs bark to communicate," he said.

Kevin Fitzgerald Of Alameda East Hospital
Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of Alameda East Hospital (credit: CBS)

The surgery doesn't always solve the problem.

"Sixty percent of dogs, even after surgery, form scar tissue that bridges the area and they still can produce some sound," Fitzgerald said.

The Herns did try several non-surgical methods but they didn't work. They had to have Lucy Lou debarked three times before it was successful.

"I'd rather keep my dog than give my dog up," Hern said.

Lucy Lou died from cancer about five years ago but it wasn't related to debarking surgery.

There's an online petition with over 135,000 signatures asking veterinarians to stop the procedure.

LINK: Online Petition

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