New York lawmakers passed bill A01303 on Tuesday which bans cat declawing and is close to becoming the first state to ban the procedure. The bill still needs the signature of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo who said his office is in the process of reviewing the bill.
If the governor signs off, New York will become the first state to ban the practice. The Assembly sponsor, Manhattan Democrat Linda Rosenthal, said the bill is for people who “think their furniture is more important than their cat.” Rosenthal owns two cats (who still have their claws) Kitty and Vida and says of the surgery “It’s unnecessary, it’s painful, and it causes the cat problems,” adding “It’s just brutal.”
Cruel and Unusual Surgery
Brian Shapiro, the New York Director for the Humane Society of the United States, says that “Declawing is a convenience surgery, with a very high complication rate, that offers no benefit to the cat,” He says the surgery may have an opposite effect to what is intended because the surgery causes “an increase in biting and litter-box avoidance, which often results in the cat being surrendered to an animal shelter.”
Not only is the procedure dangerous to the cat, but it’s also very painful.
“It’s the equivalent of severing a finger at the first knuckle,” said Senator Michael N. Gianaris. On their website, the American Veterinary Medical Association says “Declawing is a major surgery involving amputation and is not medically necessary for the cat in most cases.”
The bill brought animal lovers on both sides of the aisle together. Republican State Senator James Tedisco agreed “Animals give us unconditional love,” adding, “I think that this is the most nonpartisan day we have in the New York State Legislature.”
What Does the Bill Ban?
The new law is made to protect cats from owners who are declawing them for “cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or reasons of convenience.” Cat declawing is still legal but only for reasons that are medically beneficial to the cat.
The bill states that no person “shall perform an onychectomy (declawing), partial or complete phalangectomy or tendonectomy procedure by any means on a cat within the state of New York, except when necessary for a therapeutic purpose.”
“Therapeutic purpose” is defined by the bill as “the necessity to address the physical medical condition of the cat, such as an existing or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury or abnormal condition in the claw that compromises the cat’s health.”
The way the law is written, veterinarians will have to prove that they removed the cat’s claws due to health reasons or face $1,000 fines.
What Are the Penalties?
If the offender performs an “onychectomy, partial or complete phalangectomy or tendonectomy procedure” in the state of New York they will face a civil penalty of $1,000. The way the law is currently worded, the veterinarian who performs the procedure will be held accountable for the crime and not the owner of the cat. There are no additional penalties for repeat offenders.
Opposition to the Bill
The New York Veterinary Medical Society disagreed with how the law is written. They argued that declawing should also be allowed “when the alternative is abandonment or euthanasia.” The society said in a statement that some cats are declawed by owners who suffered from diseases like hemophilia, diabetes or immune disorders.
The Medical Society pointed out cases where elderly pet owners are forced to declaw their cats before entering an assisted living facility. The owner would now be forced to give up their cat. “The large majority of cats who are declawed have a very high quality of life without pain or negative consequences,” the group stated in a fact sheet.
There were also some concerns raised during the debate in the assembly by Republican lawmaker Brian Manktelow who said declawing should be “a medical decision, not a legislative decision.” Manktelow also claimed New Yorkers could simply travel to another state to have the procedure done. Ms. Rosenthal responded by saying the new law could actually inspire other states to follow suit.
Despite the opposition, the cat bill passed the assembly without issue on Tuesday and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Cuomo.