MEDFORD, OREGON — An Oregon Court ruled that a southern Oregon couple must silence their barking dogs by surgically removing their vocal cords.
The couple, John Updegraff and Karen Szewc were sued by neighbor Debra and Dale Krein in 2012 over the noise several of their Tibetan Mastiffs dogs were making — by barking. The Kreins were compensated $238,000 for putting up with the noise, and the judge also ordered that the owners need to debark their mastiffs.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, devocalization or "debarking" requires surgically cutting an animal's vocal cords, which decreases the volume, pitch and intensity of the animal's bark. The technique is considered a last resort by the medical association, and is strongly opposed by various animal rights group in the US.
The owners told Oregon Live that the dogs were raised to protect their sheep from predators. However, the court ruled that their Tibetan mastiffs were not suited to work with livestock and ordered them to debark the dogs, or replace them with pooches that were more suitable for the task.
The Oregon chapter of the Humane Society of the United States said that there are other ways to discourage a dog from barking, such as with citronella-spray and shock collars, or by simply building a visual barrier between the dogs and their neighbors' property.
It is unknown whether the couple plans to appeal the decision at the Oregon Supreme Court.