There's a certain pit bull downtown that breaks our hearts every time we do evening walks in the Fashion District, right near California Mart off of Broadway & 11th. He is left alone at night & tethered outside. He clearly gets no exercise, is underfed and ill-cared for, goes nuts whenever we pass, and if he were ever to get away from his tether, we suspect he might get pretty dog aggressive. But what is most distressing about this guy is that he barks and barks and barks...even though he's been...debarked.
There are few animals sounds more difficult to listen to than a debarked dog trying to bark. It's awful. And not necessary.
On Tuesday, NYT ran a piece about debarking and specifically, about a family who decided that living in the city in a building with neighbors meant they had to debark their dog or face the real possibility of having to move due to so many noise complaints. NYT even includes two sound bites for your listening pleasure - the bark of a dog named Truffle and the bark of the debarked dog in question, Nestle. Go have a listen and you'll see what we mean about heartbreaking. (Our tethered pit friend on Broadway & 11th sounds far more miserable.)
While we were pleased to see that many detractors were included in the original piece & that many vets refuse to perform the debarking surgery, the heated comments section hinted that many folks feel that debarking a dog is natural part of city living. We were outraged. We live in Downtown LA. We live in a building with many dog owners and we have two of our own. We walk dogs all over downtown in every high rise building and yes, there are always dogs barking. This is how they communicate. This is how they respond to noises, dangerous and not. If well-trained and properly exercised, curbing barking is relatively easy to manage. We understand frustrated neighbors who can't sleep when our dogs bark, we understand clients who've been told by their building management again and again that they have to figure out the barking situation or else. All of these things, while not fun, can be managed.
There is no reason - none at all that we can fathom - that an owner should remove a dog's ability to communicate. Even the sometimes-controversial barking collars (citronella & shock varieties) are a far better alternative (we've seen them work wonders for dogs & change their behavior entirely) than debarking surgery.
So we were extra-pleased that NYT published two opinion letters today from folks who perfectly expressed our frustration and our feeling that dog owners must accept responsibility for taking a dog into their home and into their lives and that sometimes, those all-annoying barks can save lives. We were so pleased, we tweeted about it early this morning.
While we fall firmly in the camp of those who believe dogs should not be altered unless medically necessary (this means no docking of ears, no snipping of noses, no debarking), we know that not everyone agrees. Yet, we pass a gut-wrenching reminder of this every evening just a few blocks from FIDM. We can't help but wondering what that dog's life would be like if his owner took responsibility for him, barking and all.