MONTPELIER, Vt. — The state of Vermont has a new law that explicitly bans human sexual abuse of animals.

The Humane Society of the United States says that 44 states have passed laws prohibiting sexual abuse of animals and 21 states treat bestiality as a felony-level offense.

The measure was signed into law on Wednesday by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Vermont was the only state in the Northeast that lacked a clear prohibition on animal abuse.

The society says Vermont’s new law strengthens misdemeanor and felony level penalties for killing and committing violent crimes against animals.

Barry Londeree, the Humane Society’s Vermont director, says the sexual abuse of animals is both an abhorrent crime against defenseless creatures and an indicator of an individual’s propensity to commit other violent, predatory sex crimes.