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New York Is First State To Ban Cat Declawing

New York Is First State To Ban Cat Declawing
Veterinarians are applauding New York State’s legislation to ban declawing cats. The law is being praised by supporters and criticized by opponents. Photo: shutterstock.com

Albany, New York – Office of the Governor — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S5532B/A1303) that bans declawing procedures on cats, making New York the first state to prohibit the practice. The bill takes effect immediately.

“Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops,” said Gov. Cuomo in a statement. “By banning this archaic practice, we will ensure that animals are no longer subjected to these inhumane and unnecessary procedures.”

Declawing is a surgery that animal-rights advocates say is inhumane and unnecessary. Declawing a cat, also known as onychectomy, has been banned in most European countries, along with some Canadian provinces and U.S. cities including Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Surgical Procedure: Risks and Complications

Onychectomy involves the removal of all or most of the last bone of each of the toes of the front feet, and tendons, nerves and ligaments that allow for normal function of the paw are severed, resulting in intense and chronic pain and other serious medical or behavioral issues. After the claws are removed, cats often shift their gait and where it places most of its weight, causing strain on its leg joints and spine, which can lead to early onset arthritis and prolonged back and joint pain. Cats‘ claws play an important role in various aspects of their lives, including to assist in climbing and maintaining balance and to escape danger.

“Cat declawing is a brutal procedure similar to severing a human finger at the first knuckle and has lifelong ramifications for cats,” Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said in the statement. “I am proud of the new Senate majority’s emphasis on animal welfare and am glad the Governor enacted this legislation.”

“Today, New York becomes the first state in the nation to ban cat declawing,” added Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “Declawing is cruelty, plain and simple, and with so many low-cost and pain-free alternatives available, there is no reason to allow this barbaric practice to continue, not here in New York or anywhere. It’s a wonderful day for the cats of the state and the people who love them. Now that my bill has become law, New York has been catapulted onto the leaderboard of humane states, and we expect other states to quickly follow in our footsteps.”

Exceptions to the Law

The new law prohibits the amputation procedure unless done in an effort to treat a medical condition that’s affecting the cat. Cases that warrant the procedure might include injury, tumor or an untreatable infection. Otherwise, veterinarians will face up to $1,000 in fines if they perform the operation for any other reason.

Among the recommendations for cat owners who want to discourage their pets from ruining furniture are using patience and training to redirect the cat to a scratching post. Nail caps, which are glued onto a cat’s existing nails to manage scratching, are another harmless alternative.

Why Opponents Don’t Like the Ban

While most vets applauded the law, the New York State Veterinary Medical Society has been a vocal critic. The state’s largest veterinary organization says declawing should be an available option when the alternative is abandonment or euthanasia; for example, when an elderly pet owner moves into an assisted living facility that requires the cat to be declawed for safety reasons. These owners would otherwise have to give up their pets, says the organization. Opponents also worry that the ban will discourage people from adopting cats. According to the ASPCA, roughly 3.2 million cats enter shelters each year. Those who disagree with the New York law say the state will see an increase in the number of cats being placed  in shelters and in feline euthanasia.

Similar anti-declawing initiatives are pending in other states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey.

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