Many animal rights activists and veterianrians have voiced opposition to procedures declawing cats, and now a proposed legislation could make it illegal in New Jersey unless it’s deemed medically necessary.
Introduced on June 16 by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), the bill (A3899) would add onychectomy – or declawing – to the list of the animal cruelty charges in New Jersey. The bill states that anyone who performs the procedure on a cat or other animal will be considered guilty of a disorderly persons offense and could face a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in prison, or both. Violators could also be subject to civil penalty fines between $500 and $2,000, the bill states.
In general, cats are declawed by pet owners to prevent them from scratching or damaging furniture, although there are times when the procedure is done for the health of the animal. Under the bill, declawing is permitted for “therapeutic purposes” if the procedure addresses a medical condition such as recurring illness, disease, infection or an abnormality that could compromise the cat’s health.
Roseann Trezza, a spokesperson for the Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey, said the organization opposes the declawing of cats for purposes that aren’t medically necessary, and said there are other options.
“AHS is against declawing. There are many alternatives to declawing. There are scratching posts, Soft Paws plastic nail caps, etc.,” Trezza said.
The bill states that declawing “is seen by many as a quick fix for unwanted scratching by cats,” but it can cause lasting physical problems. The most popular declawing method involves amputating the last bone of each toe on a cat’s paw. Another form of the declawing involves severing the tendon that actually controls the claw in each toe, which means the claws are retained but the cat isn’t able to extend or flex them.
“These procedures can cause pain in the cat’s paw, bleeding, lameness, infection, and other painful physical symptoms,” the bill states.
According to the American Veterianry Medical Association, declawing “should be regarded as a major surgery” and should only be done as a last resort.
“Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents an above normal health risk for its owner(s),” the AVMA says on its website.
The Humane Society of the United States said on its website that after a feline is declawed, shredded newspaper is often placed in the litter box because the litter can be painful and irritate the animal’s paws. It can also cause a cat to stop using the litter box and in some cases, “cats may become biters because they no longer have their claws for defense.”
The Humane Society also offers tips on how to keep cats from scratching.
Following introduction, the bill was referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Last month, a similar bill was introduced in New York, and quickly gained the support of several veterinarians who pushed for the bill’s approval.