Devocalization is the procedure where a dog's or cat's vocal cords are cut to eliminate their ability to bark or meow.
Under California law, this procedure is generally legal. However, 24 CFR 960.707 makes it unlawful to require people to remove their pets' vocal chords as a condition of living in public housing. Further, Section 1942.7(a)(3) of the California Civil Code prohibits landlords from requiring the devocalization of an animal as a condition of renting real property.
This latter prohibition also applies to the declawing of animals. But, like devocalization, the declawing of a cat or dog is otherwise permissible under California law.
What is the devocalization of an animal?
Devocalization, or debarking when speaking of dogs, is the controversial procedure where an animal's vocal cords are cut to eliminate their ability to speak (e.g., bark or meow). The veterinary medical term for the procedure is ventriculocordectomy.
Vocal cord removal is an invasive procedure. It also carries the following risks:
- blood loss,
- and other serious complications.
Devocalization is mostly performed at the request of animal breeders and animal testing labs. Opponents of the procedure call it outdated and inhumane.
Is devocalization of dogs and cats legal in California?
Vocal cord removal is generally legal under California law. Currently though, the law does provide two restrictions on the devocalization of dogs and cats. These are:
- 24 CFR 960.707 makes it unlawful to require people to remove their pets' vocal chords as a condition of living in public housing; and,
- Section 1942.7(a)(3) of the California Civil Code prohibits landlords from requiring the devocalization of an animal as a condition of renting real property.
In 2000, anti-debarking legislation was proposed in the State. However, the proposed bill failed – mostly because groups believed the ban would lead to similar bans on ear cropping and other controversial cosmetic surgical procedures on dogs.
Six states currently have laws prohibiting the devocalization animals under certain circumstances. Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey prohibit devocalization except in cases where it is medically necessary. Pennsylvania prohibits devocalization of any dog for any reason unless the procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian using anesthesia. And, California and Rhode Island make it unlawful to require the devocalization or declawing of animals as a condition of real estate occupancy.
Is the Declawing of dogs and cats legal under California law?
A similar procedure to devocalization is the declawing of pets. Properly known as onychectomy, declawing is a surgical procedure where all or part of the end bones of an animal's toes are amputated.
In general, it is legal to declaw a pet in California. But some California cities have banned the practice. These cities include:
- Beverly Hills,
- Culver City,
- Los Angeles,
- San Francisco,
- Santa Monica, and
- West Hollywood.
In addition, like devocalization, landlords are prohibited from requiring tenants or potential tenants to declaw their pets as a condition of occupancy. Please note, though, that the law banning devocalization as a condition of living in public housing (24 CFR 960.707), is silent on declawing.