A piece of legislation that would make declawing cats illegal in New York has passed state legislature and now heads to the Governor’s desk to sign into law. Bill A01303 would make the state the first to ban the practice, prohibiting the procedure altogether and fining veterinarians up to $1,000 for performing it.
Onychectomy, more commonly known as declawing, is a surgical procedure used to remove a cat’s claws to stop it from scratching or killing birds. It is already illegal in parts of Europe and Canada, as well as a number of US cities including, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, reports the Associated Press. However, no state has banned it in its entirety.
A number of organizations and animal welfare groups oppose the procedure, including the Humane Society of the US who notes that declawing a cat can make it less likely to use the litter box or result in lasting physical problems.
"Declawing a cat is not like getting a mani/pedi, it's a brutal surgical procedure that involves removing the first bone of the cat's toe and part of the tendons and muscles," the bill’s main sponsor, NY State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, said in a statement to CNN. "Now that New York is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban cat declawing, the days when this procedure is cavalierly offered for the convenience of the owners to protect couches and curtain are numbered."
Opposition from the New York State Veterinary Medical Society (NYSVMS) says that declawing should be an available option when the alternative is an owner abandoning or euthanizing their feline, particularly as doctors will sometimes declaw a cat if its owner has a variety of medical conditions such as immuno-compromised systems or diabetes.
“These cat owners should not need to face relinquishment or euthanasia of their pet because the option to declaw cats is unavailable,” wrote Tim Atkinson with NYSVMS in a position paper, adding that a trained veterinarian should be able to assess normal scratching behavior and provide alternatives to declawing and potential risks to the patient.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases declawing a cat is not a “medically necessary procedure” and owners should only get cats if they can provide toys that allow for normal scratching behavior and can care for their cat’s claws. Though scientific data does not indicate declawing leads to abnormal behaviors, it has shown that cats with destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanized, released, abandoned, or relinquished.