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New York lawmakers passed what could be the first statewide prohibition on surgeries to remove cats' claws.
New York may become the first state in the country to ban the declawing of cats under a bill approved last week by lawmakers.
The bill, which levies a $1,000 fine against veterinarians who perform the procedure for reasons other than medical necessity, is awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature. He will review the bill before deciding whether to sign it, according to the Associated Press.
Declawing is a procedure commonly done to protect furniture or other belongings from scratching, which cats do routinely to stretch, mark territory and remove dead “husks” from their claws, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The process generally involves removing each of a cat’s toes down to the first knuckle, which advocates say is needlessly painful and strips the animal of its main defense, sometimes leading to biting and problems using the litter box.
“It is an unnecessary surgery that provides no medical benefit to the cat,” the organization said on its website. “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.”
The legislation was first introduced in 2015 but did not come up for a vote until this year, thanks largely to ongoing advocacy work among legislators and animal welfare activists, according to Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal, the measure’s main sponsor.
"After years of advocacy, New York State is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban the cruel and unnecessary practice of cat declawing," she said in a statement. "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.”
The measure passed both chambers of the state legislature with broad support, though some lawmakers questioned whether exemptions should be added for cat owners with compromised immune systems or other health issues. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society opposed the bill, saying it preferred “client education prior to the consideration of declawing” but ultimately believed “the decision to declaw or not declaw a pet should be made by the pet owner in consultation with his or her veterinarian.”
Cat declawing is already illegal in a handful of U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. Several other states are considering wholesale bans of the practice, including Massachusetts, California and New Jersey.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty.