New York a Signature Away From Becoming the First State to Ban Cat Declawing

June 7, 2019 by Dan McCue

New York is poised to become the first state in the U.S. to ban the declawing of cats under legislation that sailed through the state legislature with bipartisan support.

The bill, which would subject veterinarians to a $1,000 fine for performing the procedure, has been sought for years by cat owners and animal welfare advocates.

Its sponsor, Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told reporters after its passages that “Cat declawing is a horrific, yet often practiced surgery that leads to a lifetime of pain and discomfort for thousands of cats.

“Today, though, every cat and kitten in New York state lands on its feet as we prepare to make New York the best state for cats to live in the United States,” Rosenthal said.

However, as of Friday it was still not entirely clear that Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign the bill. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said only that he will review the legislation before he makes a final decision.

Declawing cats is already illegal in a number of U.S. cities, including Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, no state has ever moved to ban the procedure, which requires amputating a cat’s toes back to the first knuckle.

Among those hoping Cuomo won’t sign the bill are members of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society.

The society has been an outspoken critic of the legislation, contending that there are many legitimate reasons for performing the procedure.

These include instances where elderly pet owners move into an assisted living facility where they may be required to declaw a long-time pet for the safety of other residents. Another may be when a pet’s owner develops a weakened immune system and can’t risk suffering a potentially life-threatening infection stemming from an inadvertent scratch.

The ban the bill puts in place would force the owners in each of those cases to give up their pets.

In a fact sheet it distributed to lawmakers, the veterinary society also contended a ban is unwarranted because “veterinarians are doing considerably fewer declaw procedures” and members of the society are “educating clients on alternative options and discussing the procedure in detail.

“For example, in one veterinary practice located in Buffalo, New York, there are 4,500 active clients, 6,500 active patients, and half of those are feline. In 2015, that practice performed less than 30 declaws, a 50% decrease from 2013,” the fact sheet says.

Under the bill, which passed the state Senate by a 50-12 vote and the Assembly, by a vote of 92-27, veterinarians could still perform the procedure for medical reasons, such as infection or injury.

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