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Tibetan Mastiff

An Oregon court ruled a couple must surgically ‘debark’ their dogs

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The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled a couple in Grants Pass must quiet their frequently barking dogs through surgery, according to The Oregonian.

The Oregonian reported Thursday that John Updegraff and Karen Szewc, who are married, have had six or more Pyrenean and Tibetan Mastiffs over the last 20 years.

The court ruled Wednesday that a “debarking” procedure is an appropriate solution to recurring noise from the pair’s animals for more than a decade.

Debarking operations, which are also referred to as devocalization, are controversial as they involve cutting the vocal cords of the affected dog.

Wednesday’s decision is the latest in an ongoing legal saga between Updegraff and Szewc and their neighbors, Dale and Debra Krein.

A court summary of the Kreins’ lawsuit against Szewc and Updegraff’s claims the latter couple's pets began incessantly barking in 2002.

The Kreins filed a lawsuit 10 years later, seeing no other recourse to ending the loud sounds nearby.

The couple’s suit contends their neighbors’ dogs would often start barking as early as 5 a.m. and last for hours beyond.

The Kreins alleged they were routinely awoken from sleep and forced to turn up the volume on their television due to the noise.

Relatives were dissuaded from visiting their property, they added, and their children began dreading their return from school.

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Wednesday’s ruling upheld previous rulings that Szewc and Updegraff must debark their dogs, as well as pay the Kreins $238,000.

Szewc on Thursday confirmed her and her husband have six dogs, a total which has fluctuated over the years.

“The dogs are my employees,” she said. “We do not have the dogs to harass the neighbors. We have the dogs to protect our sheep.”

Szewc said her dogs protect her livestock from area predators like bears and cougars which roam near her family’s farm.

Critics say debarking is a cruel and unnecessary move that deprives a dog of its main method of communication.

Advocates argue that if done properly it can keep troublesome animals from getting euthanized while allowing to utter a soft, raspy bark or a muffled squeak.

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