HL Deb 14 July 1964 vol 260 cc108-10

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the increasing practice of operating on dogs to remove their vocal cords, and whether they will consider taking steps to stop this.]


My Lords, I have seen recent articles in the national Press reporting that an increasing number of dog owners are having operations performed on their dogs by veterinary surgeons to sever their vocal cords in order to make the animals less noisy. I understand that an operation of this kind, if properly carried out by a veterinary surgeon, and followed by good nursing, need not cause undue suffering during either the operation or the healing of the wound. While I can well understand that many people may regard such operations as undesirable, I do not think that there are grounds for altering the law so as to prohibit them. If in any particular case it could be shown that such an operation caused unnecessary suffering to a dog, the owner and the person performing the operation could be prosecuted under the Protection of Animals Act, 1911.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask whether he would not agree that it is time to stop this increasing mutilation of dogs in the interests of social convenience? I am not one of those cranks who would put dogs before children, or any other urgent issue; but I believe it is time this practice was stopped. Is it not true that we have at the moment tail-less dogs, sexless dogs, coatless dogs and dogs with their eye-teeth removed—all in the interests of social convenience? Is it not true that we are assured that the dog is very happy after these particular operations? Shall we not soon reach the stage when we have dogs with their legs removed because it is awkward to have them running round the house?—and eventually we shall arrive at the stage where we have dogless dogs. Could not the Government introduce at least some regulation to indicate that these increasing mutilations of animals are cruel?


My Lords, barking dogs can be a statutory nuisance, and if a court so orders, if the matter is taken to court, the dog may have to be destroyed. We know that there have been cases where dogs have had their vocal cords cut, following complaints, rather than face an order of the court for the dog to be put down as a statutory nuisance. Perhaps I might add, for general information, the view of the Royal Veterinary College Hospital (which, of course, is part of London University) upon this matter. They themselves agree to remove vocal cords only in special circumstances, such as those I have just mentioned. They do not think that the dogs suffer, nor that there are psychological effects due to their being unable to bark. I understand that the hospital do these operations in all cases where the removal of a bark is the only alternative to a dog's being destroyed.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that further answer, but would he tell me exactly how it is possible to get that particular piece of information from a dog?


My Lords, as one who is always interested in anything concerning dogs, may I ask the Minister who told him that barking dogs were a statutory nuisance? Was it the national federation of burglars?


My Lords, I did not say that anyone told me that they were a statutory nuisance. I said they could be a statutory nuisance.


My Lords, may I ask whether the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have made any representations on this matter?


My Lords, I am not aware that they have made any representations, but of course they are always on the lookout for any cases where such an operation has been done, except under the proper auspices, such as by the Royal Veterinary College, and if they hear of a case they do make inquiries. But, so far as I am aware, they have not approached us on this matter.


My Lords, while some of us may have some sympathy with the very exceptional case to which my noble friend drew attention, is it not a fact that this practice, in the absence of such exceptional circumstances, is, like factory farming, a disgusting example of the idea that human beings are allowed to do anything they like with animals?


My Lords, I cannot say that I like the idea of the practice, but that was not the original Question. The Question was whether the Government were prepared to introduce legislation, and I am afraid the answer to that at the moment is, "No".


My Lords, is there not a further danger that, if these experiments are successful, they may be transferred to human beings, even politicians?