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Me-Ouch! New York Becomes First State In Nation To Ban Declawing Cats

New York has become the first state to ban declawing cats.
New York has become the first state to ban declawing cats. Photo Credit: Contributed

New York has officially become the first state in the nation to ban the declawing of cats.

Earlier this year, the New York Senate and Assembly voted to approve legislation that would eliminate the declawing of cats, following similar laws in Denver and various towns in California.

On Monday, July 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed that bill into law, making the Empire State the first to ban the “cruel and painful procedure” that many an owner has forced on their felines.

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

Brian Shapiro, New York State Director for The Humane Society of the United States said that the hopes New York’s decision will allow other states to follow through with similar legislation of their own.

“The Legislature’s vote to end the cruel practice of declawing cats represents a watershed moment that will continue to resonate in other states,” he noted.

Those in favor of the legislation have spoken from the cat’s perspective, arguing declawing cats is inhumane because it involves the amputation of the animal’s toes back to the first knuckle. However, some veterinary associations in New York opposed the bill, arguing that declawing should be available as a last resort for those cats that won’t stop scratching furniture or humans.

The New York State Veterinary Medical Society was outspoken in its opposition of the bill, claiming the procedure is useful as a last resort for families of felines that won’t stop scratching furniture or humans, or when a cat’s owner’s immune system is compromised, putting them at risk of adverse reactions from a scratch. Other concerns included concerns of cat owners bringing their pets out of state to have the procedure performed.

Under the bill, violators will face fines up to $1,000, though veterinarians will still be permitted to declaw cats for certain medical reasons. With the legislation passed by the Senate and Assembly, it will head to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk to be signed into law.

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

Advocates have argued that declawing cats is inhumane because it involves the amputation of the animal’s toes back to the first knuckle. However, some veterinary associations in New York have opposed the bill, arguing that declawing should be available as a last resort for those cats that won’t stop scratching furniture or humans.

According to the Human Society of the United States, “declawing can make a cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite. Declawing also can cause lasting physical problems for your cat.” The organization notes that it “opposes declawing except for the rare cases when it is necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.”

“People who are worried about being scratched, especially those with immunodeficiencies or bleeding disorders, may be told incorrectly that their health will be protected by declawing their cats. However, infectious disease specialists don't recommend declawing. The risk from scratches for these people is less than those from bites, cat litter, or fleas carried by their cats.”

The Humane Society noted that “It is an unnecessary surgery that provides no medical benefit to the cat. Educated pet parents can easily train their cats to use their claws in a manner that allows everyone in the household to live together happily.”

“Medical drawbacks to declawing include pain in the paw, infection, tissue necrosis (tissue death), lameness, and back pain. Removing claws changes the way a cat's foot meets the ground and can cause pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. There can also be a regrowth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, and bone spurs.”

"Today, New York becomes the first state in the nation to ban cat declawing. 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," New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal said.

"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."

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