New York Declawing Bill Splits Vets

New York state legislators pushed last Tuesday for a bill that would preserve a cat’s ability to “claw” away at cruelty.

Sponsored by State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), New York State Assembly Bill A1297 would make it illegal to declaw cats for reasons other than absolute medical necessity. The bill enjoys wide support among lawmakers and animal welfare advocates, though veterinarians are spilt over the issue.

The practice of declawing has sparked controversy over the decades both because of its radical nature and that it had been done largely for the convenience of the cat owner. Far from a simple removal of the cats nails - as many cat owners believe -  declawing involves amputation of the bones, tendons and ligaments at the distal (front) end of the cat’s paws. This is akin to a human having his or her fingers amputated at the first joint behind the nail bed.

A host of medical complications can arise from declawing such as infection, hemorrhage, chronic pain and limping, according to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Moreover, declawing renders a cat defenseless against predators (many “indoor” cats find a way to get outside) and may even result in increased aggression.

“For humans not to respect the integrity of the animal and the animal’s body is criminal,” Rosenthal told a press conference at the state capitol. “However, it’s still allowed, it’s an option, and that’s why we aim to make it illegal.” Rosenthal has fought for two years to pass the bill with the help of Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-Rome, Oneida County) who sponsors the Senate’s companion bill, S5084. If passed, New York would be the first U.S. state to ban declawing.

In a memo to lawmakers, The New York State Veterinary Medical Society expressed opposition to the bill claiming that declawing often saves cats from euthanasia: “[It] is one method to allow a beloved feline companion to continue to live in a household rather than relinquishing the family pet to a shelter,” the Society’s lobbyist wrote. “Declawing should remain a viable alternative to euthanasia if all other options have failed.”

One can’t help but ask how devoted to their cats are the humans that would surrender them for scratching behaviors. Additionally, what process has The Society put in place that examines which “other options” have been explored and when those options have been exhausted?

By treating one “problem,” cat owners who choose to declaw are unwittingly creating another. The Society has apparently not considered that declawed cats are less inclined to use their litter box, resulting in house-soiling: another leading cause of cat surrender to shelters.

“The act of declawing has no place in a humane society, and shelters should know, and vets do know,” said Brian Shapiro, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. Shapiro is one of 130 veterinarians supporting the bill.

Currently, seven California cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco have outlawed declawing as have the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and 18 other countries. Several other U.S. states have similar bills under consideration.

Please consider. Because declawing for convenience sends one unmistakable message to a “beloved” cat: “I love my stuff more than I love you.”


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