Late last month, and without much fanfare, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed House Bill 344, known as Logan’s Law, banning the de-vocalization of dogs and cats, except for medical necessities. Massachusetts thus becomes the first to effectively ban de-vocalization of dogs and cats, a practice which is illegal in other parts of the world. New Jersey previously banned de-vocalization. However, the law is replete with exceptions making it generally unenforceable.
Before Logan's law, veterinarians in Massachusetts could cut animals’ vocal cords if an owner was frustrated with a dog’s barking. In fact, the law is named after Logan, a a former show dog who won ribbons as a Belgian sheepdog, was given to a rescue organization after being “debarked.”
Though more than 200 Massachusetts veterinarians endorsed the bill, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association (www.massvet.org/), whose members may have been more interested in money than the oath the members took to do no harm, lobbied extensively against Logan's Law. Officially, the MVMA's position was that the bill “went too far.” However, There is a strong belief that the MVMA was against the ban because vets would lose the money they get from de-vocalizing dogs. The Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (www.massfeddogs.org/) also lobbied against the law, as did the Animal Rescue League of Boston which refused to endorse the bill. But animal shelters throughout the state endorsed the bill because they saw the de-vocalized animals coming into their locations knowing that debarking doesn’t stop people from giving up their pets.
Logan's law was a grass-root movement. The law was drafted and supported by the Animal Law Coalition and passed as a result of a grass roots effort by the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets (no website), made up of pet owners, veterinarians, shelters and rescues, attorneys, students, and other advocates and citizens.
Opponents to the bill argued that owners should be able to cut their dogs’ vocal cords, otherwise they would have to move, or give that dog or cat up for adoption. But just like Logan, other de-vocalized dogs have also been put up for adoption, dropped off at shelters or abandoned.
Many veterinarians across the state refused to perform the surgery which is very dangerous and could kill the animals. Moreover, the procedure often needs to be repeated because the first surgery didn’t work, and often leaves dogs with a horrible raspy voice which sounds like they’re choking all the time.
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