A court ruled on Wednesday, Aug. 30, that an Oregon couple must stop their six loud dogs from barking by having their pets vocal cords surgically removed.
“We are just shocked,” David Lytle, a spokesman for the Oregon Humane Society told The Oregonian. He said his organizations have already pushed for a bill to outlaw any debarking operations but it failed years ago.
The whole dispute started almost 20 years ago. The neighbors who endured the dog’s constant barking from next door said the lawsuit only began as a last resort.
Those neighbors, Debra and Dake Krein said they have endured the barking of six or more Tibetan and Pyrenean mastiffs owned by the family next door since 2002, according to a court summary of the case obtained by The Oregonian.
But the Kreins did not sue their neighbors Karen Szewc and John Updegraff until 10 years later. Szewc and Updegraff are married.
The Kreins said they heard barking from as early as 5 a.m and continuing for hours until Szewc and Updegraff left the house.
The constant barking woke the Kreins often and stopped their relatives from visiting them. It forced them to turn up the volume on the TV to watch shows and even their children did not look forward to coming home from school.
The Kreins recorded barking as evidence to prove their case.
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the “debarking surgery” is an appropriate means to end the noise problem that the Kreins have faced on their rural property in Grants Pass, an Oregon city, The Oregonian reported.
But these debarking surgeries are highly controversial and humane groups have often spoken out about them in the past. As of now, six states have already outlawed the practice under certain circumstances.
The debarking surgery cuts the vocal cords of the dog so even if their mouths still form a bark—no noise will come out, especially if a major portion of the vocal chords is removed. People opposing this procedure say it is unethical to remove a dog or cat’s means of communication while also being a cruel and unneeded procedure, according to The Oregonian.
If done properly, however, it can help problematic pets from being euthanized and may enable them to express a softer bark or a muffled bark.
The Oregon court ruling is a rare occurrence since most dog disputes are resolved before the case proceeds further in court.
Back in April 2015 after a four-day trial in Jackson County Circuit Court, the jury ruled that the dog owners had to pay the Kreins $238,000, The Oregonian reported.
But while the Kreins at the time said that the money did compensate them, it didn’t stop the problem from occurring again.
That’s when Judge Timothy Gerking ordered this year that the mastiffs be debarked, citing that the owners did not stop the barking by other means, which could include using citronella-spray and shock collars or erecting a visual barrier between the dogs and the neighbors’ property, according to The Oregonian.
But dog owner Szewc told The Oregonian that the ruling on her six dogs will affect her livelihood as a farm owner.
“The dogs are my employees,” she said. “We do not have the dogs to harass the neighbors. We have the dogs to protect our sheep.”
She said the dog’s bark only when they sense predators like bears or cougars. She said any agricultural property will create farm noise, which she said her neighbors do not accept.
“The next line of defense is a gun. I don’t need to use a gun, if I can protect my sheep with dogs,” Szewc told The Oregonian. “This is a passive way of protecting livestock.”
A petition from Change.org is garnering support to stop Oregon courts from ordering dogs be debarked. As of writing it has already 8,227 supporters.