New York is on its way to becoming the first U.S. state to ban the declawing of cats.
A ban on surgically removing a cat’s claws passed the State Senate on Tuesday, and will head to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk if it passes The Assembly.
The procedure of declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each of a cat’s toes. The New York Humane Society says the common misperception of declawing is that it's no different than clipping an animal's nails. But anti-declawing advocates say that the procedure is more like a punishment for owing money to the Mob. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.
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“It’s amputation,” Jennifer Conrad, a California veterinarian who traveled to Albany in May to lobby lawmakers in favor of the proposed ban told the Associated Press. “It is the equivalent of taking a cigar cutter and cutting the end joint off.”
In an interview with the Democrat and Chronicle, Empire State director for The Humane Society Brian Shapiro described the procedure as an "inhumane convenience surgery" that can lead to painful complications with serious health effects.
However, the proposal isn't being met with much enthusiasm from the state's veterinarians.
The New York State Veterinary Medical Society is opposed to a full ban. Their experts argue that the procedure should be allowed as a last resort for felines that won’t stop scratching furniture or humans, especially if the cat’s owner has a weakened immune system, and a scratch might put them at greater risk of infection.
The NYSVMS said that declawing a problematic cat should remain a viable alternative to euthanasia. Meanwhile, trimming a cat's claws every few weeks is considered by vets to be an important part of maintaining a cat's health while protecting the owner and their family — as well as their sofas, curtains and other furniture.
“Veterinarians are doing considerably fewer declaw procedures because we are educating clients on alternative options and discussing the procedure in detail,” NYSVMS member Tim Atkinson wrote in a memo of opposition.
“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 percent decrease from 2013,” Atkinson wrote.
The Bill makes declawing a violation punishable by a civil penalty up to $1,000. As an exception, veterinarians could still perform the procedure for medical reasons, like infection or injury, such as a need to remove cancerous nail bed tumors.
“None of us love the procedure,” Richard Goldstein, a veterinarian at New York City’s Animal Medical Center and a former faculty member at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine told the AP.
“But when the alternative is condemning the cat to a shelter or to death? That’s why we do it.”
There are three ways to declaw a cat: The standard method of declawing is amputation with a scalpel or guillotine clipper. Another method is laser surgery. A third procedure is the tendonectomy, in which the tendon that controls the claw in each toe is severed. The cat keeps their claws, but can't control them or extend them to scratch.
"It's cruel and inhumane. It would be like saying, 'well dogs sometimes bite, so let's remove their teeth.' The possibility you'll get scratched is just part of owning a cat," said Evan Rodriguez, a New Yorker and proud owner of an American Bombay cat named Bagheera.
Notable supporters of the ban took to Twitter on Tuesday, advocating for New York to scratch the practice.
Seth MacFarlane tweeted, "It’s about time. Cat declawing is cruel and inhumane. If you don’t want the claws, don’t get the cat. A) It’s extremely painful. B) If your indoor cat gets out and encounters an adversary, you’re taking away its only defense. Don’t be a dick. Don’t declaw."
Australia, England, Israel, and Switzerland are some of the 39 countries that have already banned cat declawing. Stateside, declawing is illegal in Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and some other cities in California. New Jersey, Rhode Island and West Virginia are also considering legislation to ban cat declawing as well.