Court Orders Guard Dogs Debarked
September 1, 2017

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, Aug. 30, that a southern Oregon couple must quiet their incessantly barking dogs by sending them to the vet to have their voices surgically squelched.

The Appeals Court ruled "debarking" surgery is an appropriate solution to a noisy and relentless problem that neighbors living next to the dogs have had to endure for more than a decade on their rural property outside Grants Pass, Ore.

"The dogs are my employees," Oregon Sheep Growers Association member Karen Szewc said of the six Tibetan and Pyrenean Mastiffs in an interview with The Oregonian. "We do not have the dogs to harass the neighbors. We have the dogs to protect our sheep."

Debarking operations, also known as devocalization, are highly controversial. Groups such as the Oregon Humane Society and American Humane have spoken out against them. Six states have outlawed the procedure under certain circumstances, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Szewc's neighbors say the barking began in 2002, but they waited a decade to file a lawsuit. A decision in Jackson County Circuit Court in April of 2015 ordered Szewc to pay $238,000 in compensation to her neighbors. The judge also ordered the debarking. The appeals court upheld both decisions in this week's ruling.

Jackson County had previously cited Szewc for her dogs' prolonged barking and issued a $400 fine as well as an order to have the dogs debarked or moved from the property. A county hearings officer decided the operation was "so small and unprofitable" that it didn't fall under farm-use laws.

Debarking dogs in the past led to cougar attacks that cost Szewc six lambs in a single week. She told The Oregonian that she's still trying to decide whether to accept or appeal the court decision.

Source: The Oregonian