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Massachusetts Becomes First State to Criminalize Devocalization of Dogs and Cats

Cat undergoing surgeryOn April 22, 2010, the governor of Massachusetts signed into law HB 344, which makes devocalizing dogs and cats for non-medical reasons not only a crime, but a felony.

The ban does not apply in cases where devocalization is used to treat disease, congenital abnormalities, or injury.

Massachusetts is the first in the country to pass a statewide ban on devocalization.

According to DVM Newsmagazine:

The law would allow licensed veterinarians to perform devocalizations if they're medically necessary to treat or relieve illnesses, diseases, injuries, or congenital abnormalities that are causing or may cause a pet physical pain or harm.

Massachusetts veterinarians would need to keep records for four years on the procedures and report the total number of devocalizations performed to an auditing board. Records would need to include:

  • Name and address of the animal's owner
  • Name and address of the person from whom payment is received for the procedure
  • Description of the animal, including name, species, breed, date of birth, sex, color, markings and current weight
  • License number and municipality that issued such license for the animal> Date and time the procedure was performed
  • Reason for the devocalization procedure and any diagnostic opinion, analysis or test results to support such diagnosis.

Violators would be subject to up to five years in state prison and fines of up to $2,500.

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