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Singaporeans go barking mad over bid to silence dogs

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[August 30, 2014]  SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A suggestion by Singapore's public housing authority that owners of noisy dogs consider "debarking" their pets to avoid inconveniencing neighbours has raised animal lovers' hackles in the city-state and prompted much ridicule on social media.

The authority, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), recommended in a notice posted in a residential block that one option for dogs that will not keep quiet is to "debark" them.

Debarking involves removing a section of a dog's vocal cord to reduce the volume of its bark and is recommended as a solution of "last resort" to control noisy pets, according to the website of Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Animal welfare groups say the practice is cruel and unfair.

"A dog also barks when it is in a stressed or anxious mode, and not hearing the dog does not mean the dog is in a stable state of mind," the group Action for Singapore Dogs said in a Facebook post.

In a statement on Thursday, the HDB apologised for causing anxiety to dog owners and said it had taken down the notice.

The notice was in response to feedback about "dog barking nuisance in the middle of the night" in a block of public housing apartments.

Other options it suggested to control dogs were obedience training or training collars, a photograph of the Aug. 22 notice, posted online by Action for Singapore Dogs, showed.

"I'm sure everyone has someone they wish they could 'debark'," said a Twitter user with the handle @frhn.

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"Debarking? Maybe you should try sewing your mouth," said another with the handle @salihinsuran.

Singapore's limited land area means a majority of the island's 5.3 million people live in apartments. The city places a lot of importance on being courteous and tidy.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Theodora D'cruz; Editing by Rachel Armstrong, Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)

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