Three of 15 dogs rescued from a breeder in Pennsylvania last week had been "debarked" by a pipe-like object shoved down their throats, authorities with the Pennsylvania SPCA say.
The group had received a tip that dogs were being illegally debarked at the location in Lancaster County, WGAL in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, reported.
It removed 10 puppies and five adult dogs from the home, the PSPCA said on its Facebook page.
The veterinary medical term for devocalization — also called debarking — is ventriculocordectomy, a surgical procedure that removes an animal's vocal cords, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
When it's done for the convenience of a pet owner, the goal is typically to muffle or silence a dog's bark or a cat's meowing, the society says.
Many vets refuse to perform the surgery for nonmedical reasons, according to the Humane Society.
Opponents, including PETA, consider debarking cruel and unnecessary because it removes a dog's or cat's main way to communicate. PETA offers tips for working with dogs that bark a lot — which it says is usually a symptom or boredom or loneliness — on its website.
Proponents of the procedure say it can help save a problem animal — one the neighbors keep reporting for nuisance barking, for instance — from euthanasia if done correctly by an experienced surgeon. Once a dog's vocal cords have been removed its bark is said to sound more like a hoarse cough.
The American Veterinary Medical Association says canine devocalization should only be performed by a qualified, licensed vet as a last resort to euthanasia after behavior modification fails to stop excessive barking.
Last year, animal rights groups protested after the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a decision by a state judge requiring a couple to have their Tibetan mastiffs debarked.
The court found that Karen Szewc and John Updegraff failed to take other action to keep their dogs quiet. Neighbors complained that the mastiff breeders' dogs barked incessantly. Szewc had been cited for violating county public nuisance codes at least twice, according to local media. She argued that the dogs were protecting other animals on their 3.4-acre farm.
But their neighbors said they had listened to the dogs barking for more than 10 years, a sound so loud it woke them up at night, kept family members from visiting and made them turn up the TV to drown out the barking, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
In Pennsylvania, debarking is illegal for any reason unless the procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian under anesthesia, PSPCA officials said.
The dogs that were rescued last week had been debarked by someone who pushed a "pipe-type" object down their throats multiple times to damage their vocal cords.
One was an adult female Siberian husky named Rosella who had recently been debarked. Two other adult dogs had also been debarked sometime in the past, the group reported.
“The manner in which these dogs were devocalized is concerning on many levels, not the least of which is that it is illegal,” Nicole Wilson, PSPCA director of humane law enforcement, said in a statement.
“These animals were debarked because it was a nuisance, and the inhumane manner in which the act was carried out can carry a felony charge.
"We will continue our investigation and press charges to the fullest extent allowed by the law in an effort to ensure this never happens again.”
Law enforcement officials are not releasing the name of the breeder until charges are filed, WGAL reported.
The PSPCA said it removed from the breeder the husky, three Doberman pinschers, a pregnant German shepherd, nine Doberman puppies just a few weeks old and a 3-month-old Siberian husky.
Now in custody of the PSPCA, the dogs are receiving medical care, and some will be put up for adoption, said PSPCA officials, who raise money for their work through a campaign called the Bengal Fund.