BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts on Wednesday will become the first 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, 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.
The law, signed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in April, is dubbed Logan's Law after a dog that underwent the controversial surgery but was later abandoned.
"To take the voice of an animal would be the equivalent of taking a person's voice or a person's ability to communicate," Brian Adams, spokesman for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), told Reuters.
Supporters of the new measure say it is more important for pet owners to understand the needs and motivations behind their pets' making noise.
The silencing surgery may suit the needs of the owner, but not the health and welfare of the animal.
Devocalization, known as "debarking" when performed on dogs, is largely done by commercial breeders for their own convenience, according to the Animal Law Coalition, an advocacy group based in New York.
Some of those opposing the bill argued that more animals would be surrendered to shelters or abandoned if the surgery is banned, but Adams said they are not expecting a influx of new animals.
In 2009, the MSPCA, a non-profit animal welfare organization, did not have a single dog or cat surrendered because it was too noisy, Adams said.
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 of dogs and declawing of cats as a condition of tenancy.
(Reporting by Lauren Keiper, editing by Ros Krasny and Sandra Maler)