Court’s Punishment After Her Dog’s Barking Bothered A Neighbor Is Causing A Major Controversy

Updated September 5, 2017

Debarking is viewed by many as an inhumane procedure, involving surgically removing a dog’s vocal cords.

Despite that, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled this week that a couple must debark their dogs after their neighbors complained about the dogs’ incessant barking that’s been bothering them for more than a decade.

Karen Szewc and John Updegraff, who own six Tibetan and Pyrenean Mastiffs, live on a rural property in Southern Oregon. Their neighbors, the Kreins, claim that the dogs’ constant barking has been disturbing them since 2002. They sued Szewc and Updegraff in 2012, claiming that the dogs begin barking at 5 a.m. and continue for hours after the couple leave home. The Kreins also claimed that the noise not only woke them up in the morning, but made their children’s return home after school an unwelcome experience.

While a court ordered Szewc and Updegraff to pay the Kreins $238,000 in 2015, the Kreins continued to complain that, despite the compensation, there was no change to the noise situation.

Judge Timothy Gerking ordered that the dogs be debarked, a procedure that is banned in six states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, unless a vet deems it medically necessary. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes the the procedure can lead to complications, such as bleeding, acute airway swelling, infection, coughing, and aspiration pneumonia.

In some dogs, the surgery doesn’t always “take” and the bark can return within months.

David Lytle, a spokesman for the Oregon Humane Society, told The Oregonian that the judge’s ruling was surprising, noting, “We are just shocked.” The Oregon Humane Society backed a bill years ago in an attempt to ban debarking, but it failed.

Szewc maintains that the dogs are vital to the operation of their farm, which provides supplemental income. She told The Oregonian: “We do not have the dogs to harass the neighbors. We have the dogs to protect our sheep.”

People weighing in on the New York Post’s Facebook post about the judge’s ruling had plenty to say, including comments such as: “These people paid over $200,000 and have to debark their dogs!? Seriously? Debarking is banned in over 6 states. It’s inhumane. What kind of judge orders that? Why weren’t they ordered to try spray collars or at worst, shock collars, before this?”

Others understood the ruling, with one person saying: “Incessant is the key word here. You’ll never know the struggle until you’re only getting 8 hours of sleep a week. Something’s gotta give.”

Another commenter, however, tried to explain the reason the dogs bark, noting: “The difference is, THAT IS A FARM. The dogs are not just noisy ‘pets’…they protect the farm animals! It is their job to bark. The neighbors should have considered this before deciding to live BESIDE A FARM.”

This commenter offered a different solution, writing: “Shut the dogs up. The owners don’t seem to care how much noise they make…take the dogs away and prohibit they from getting more…that way no surgery required!!”

Still another person provided this comment, based on experience: “Torture, and it doesn’t help. Then they just sound really sickly. One of our jerk neighbors did the same thing to another neighbor and it resulted in the saddest bark I’ve ever heard. Perhaps actually take care of the dog? They rarely just bark forever for no reason. Usually LONELY!”