An Oregon appeals court ordered a couple to have their dogs' vocal cords surgically lacerated in a procedure called "debarking" after their neighbors filed a lawsuit.
The Washington Post reports the neighbors first complained of the "incessant barking" in 2002 when the dog owners began breeding their Tibetan Mastiffs. The lawsuit claimed the "dogs bark[ed] uncontrollably for long periods of time while defendants [were] away from the residence." In both 2004 and 2005, the county also cited the owners for violating a city code provision on public nuisance.
One of the owners, Karen Szewc, said the provisions didn't apply to her because she ran a farm, which included sheep, goats and chickens, and the farms fall under different ordinances. The court rejected her claim and ordered her to pay $400 and to debark the dogs or to move.
In 2012, another lawsuit by the neighbors was filed, citing the dog owners didn't take the appropriate actions to prevent the dogs from barking. The court again sided with the neighbors and ordered Szewc and her husband to pay $238,000 in damages and to debark the dogs. After another unsuccessful attempt to argue the sentence, an appeals court upheld the ruling Wednesday.
The procedure to debark is partially prohibited in six states, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Many animal rights organizations and veterinarians oppose it.