New York becomes first state to ban declawing cats

Declawing pet cats has long been a common practice in the United States. Surgically removing a cat’s claws is often done to protect pet owners from skin cuts and furniture damage. About a quarter of cats in the United States have been declawed.

But the practice has become increasingly under scrutiny—it’s not the harmless procedure people think, rather it’s a surgical bone amputation that leaves long-lasting pain for the cat.

“Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe,” the Humane Society writes. “If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. It is an unnecessary surgery that provides no medical benefit to the cat.”

While the practice has been illegal in many European countries and US cities, no state has implemented a ban on declawing—until today.

With a bill signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo today, New York became the first state to ban the declawing of household pets.

“This is a real triumph for cats and the people who love them,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who championed the bill for years, according to the Associated Press. “This has catapulted New York to a leadership position when it comes to cruelty against felines.”

While cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have banned declawing, this is the first statewide ban. It’s hoped that the bill will inspire other states to follow suit.

According to Alley Cat Allies, several states, including New Jersey, West Virginia, and Rhode Island, are considering similar legislation. The latter two states would also consider it an act of animal cruelty.

While the bill is seen as victory by many animal rights advocates, New York’s largest veterinary organization, the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, opposed making the procedure illegal, instead arguing it should remain an option as a last-resort procedure.

“Medical decisions should be left to the sound discretion of fully trained, licensed and state supervised professionals,” the society said in a memo, according to AP.

“I don’t think government should be involved,” said Sen. Robert Antonacci of Syracuse. “I think we should leave it to the vets and the owners.”

But other veterinarians remain opposed to the practice. Veterinarian Michelle Brownstein stopped declawing 15 years ago, citing the chronic pain and behavioral issues exhibited in the cats.

“The end result is a barbaric procedure that results in the mutilation of the animal,” Brownstein said. “Frankly, if you’re worried about your furniture, then you shouldn’t be getting a cat.”

In the end, the bill passed without much opposition, with a 50-12 vote in the Senate and a 92-27 preliminary vote in the Assembly.

The members of the assembly behind the bill are celebrating this as a victory for the state’s cat population, and hope the law inspires an even greater change.

“I am proud of the Senate’s emphasis on animal welfare and I am pleased we passed this important proposal,” Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said, according to Gothamist.

“The days when this procedure is cavalierly offered for the convenience of the owners to protect couches and curtain are numbered,” Rosenthal said.

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