Massachusetts will become the first U.S. state to ban the surgery that devocalizes dogs and cats, which many animal rights advocates see as a cruel and unnecessary procedure.


Under the new law, in effect today, anyone in the state who cuts or removes an animal’s vocal chords for nonmedical reasons may be punished by fines and up to five years in prison.


“To take the voice of an animal would be the equivalent of taking a person’s voice or a person’s ability to communicate,” said Brian Adams, spokesman for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA).


Supporters of the new measure say it is more important for pet owners to understand the needs and motivations behind their pets’ noisemaking. The silencing surgery may suit the needs of the owner, but not the health and welfare of the animal.


Inspired by the Massachusetts law, a U.S. Congressman introduced a bill in May to support states that pass similar legislation to ban devocalization.

H.R. 5422, sponsored by C. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-MD, would authorize grants of up to $1 million for the prevention of cruelty to animals. It was referred to a House Agriculture subcommittee in June.

California is considering a law that would make it illegal for landlords to require devocalization.