Important update: BC SPCA calls for ban on dog debarking - BC SPCA
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Important update: BC SPCA calls for ban on dog debarking

December 7, 2023

In April 2022, with the help of thousands of our supporters, the BC SPCA called on the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) to enact a bylaw ban on canine devocalization. On November 13, 2023, veterinarians across the province voted overwhelmingly in favour of a debarking ban. This means that effective immediately, dogs in B.C. will no longer experience unnecessary pain and suffering from this procedure!

We are grateful to our supporters for taking action and to the CVBC and B.C. veterinarians for this significant step forward in the humane treatment of animals in our province.

What is canine devocalization?

Devocalization, commonly referred to as “debarking”, involves partially or fully removing a dog’s vocal cords to muffle or eliminate barking. The surgery is performed by accessing the tissues through the mouth or directly through the larynx.

Is debarking harmful?

For more than two decades, the BC SPCA has been on record as opposing devocalization because it impacts a dog’s ability to experience good welfare and express natural behaviours.

Barking is normal canine behaviour. Devocalization deprives dogs of an essential form of communication. Not only can this cause them significant stress, but devocalization fails to address the underlying reasons why dogs bark in the first place. This means that debarked dogs are still motivated to bark.

In some cases, dogs are put through the surgery only to have their vocal cord tissues re-grow and their ability to bark return to near-normal levels. Even if the procedure is successful at reducing or preventing barking, dogs are at risk of complications, including:

  • Short-term: bleeding, swelling, infection, coughing and gagging
  • Long-term: chronic coughing or gagging, aspiration pneumonia, and airway narrowing and scarring, which can lead to noisy breathing, respiratory distress, exercise intolerance, heat intolerance and collapse


Who else opposes devocalization?

Other veterinary organizations, including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), have spoken out against devocalization.

The practice has been banned in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Devocalization is also prohibited in places such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, several American states, New Zealand and Australia.

What other cosmetic procedures are banned in B.C.?

In addition to devocalization, CVBC bylaws (PDF) prohibit declawing, ear cropping and tail docking. A veterinarian can only perform these procedures to treat an animal’s injury or disease.

Resources for barking dogs

Fortunately, humane alternatives to devocalization are readily available. Because excessive barking is a symptom, the key is to understand the reason for it and treat that underlying cause instead.

Seeking the services of a humane dog trainer to address issues such as boredom or separation anxiety can go a long way towards resolving barking issues. It is also important to speak to your veterinarian about it.


Small white dog lying on the grass outside chewing on a toy ball