Wow! Lot of knee-jerk reactions here. I, too, thought it was absolutely horrible...until... I got a dog who barked at *everything* -- leaves falling in the backyard, people walking down the street two blocks over -- and she had a bark that would shatter glass! So, I had the dog "bark softened" (which is a lot more accurate term than "debarking". It meant a return to sanity!
First of all, folks, don'tanthropomorphizingog! Dogs are not people and they don't "talk" like people do. Dogs mainly communicate with body language. Second, they can still make noise. Sometimes quite a bit of noise! It's just softer, quieter and less annoying.
As far as being inhumane, which is less humane -- having the bark softened or always be yelling at your dog to shut up --- which doesn't work at all, since the dog thinks you're joining in the barking fun! All they do in a de-bark surgery is make a little notch in the vocal cord so that it doesn't tighten as much and give that sharp sound.
I would not have a dog de-barked for convenience. It would be an extreme case where the dog simply could *not* be quieted down through training or where the neighbors were threatening lawsuits, etc. But I'd certainly get a dog de-barked before having to get rid of the dog or coming to blows with my neighbors. It is relatively simply to train *one* dog not to bark -- it's a different thing altogether to try to get multiple dogs to be quiet.
BTW, different debarked dogs sound different. Some have just a soft bark, others have a breathy "huh! huh!" sound.
30+ years of owning shelties.