Declawing cats may soon be illegal in New York

The state would be the first to ban the practice

Legislation is currently moving through New York’s state assembly in an effort to ban the declawing of cats.

Declawing is already banned in several cities in California, as well as many countries around the world, including Switzerland, Israel, and the U.K. If Bill A01303 is passed, it would make New York the first state to ban the practice.

“Claws play an important role in various aspects of cats’ lives. They use their nails to assist in climbing and maintaining balance, to help them fully stretch, to relieve stress through kneading, and to escape danger,” reads a state assembly memorandum memo.

The memo goes on to say, “When the claws are removed, the animal tends to shift its gait and where it places most of its weight, causing strain on its leg joints and spine, which can lead to early onset arthritis and prolonged back and joint pain.”

Should the bill pass, anyone who performs an onychectomy, a partial/complete phlangectomy, or a tendonectomy procedure on a cat faces a fine of up to $1,000.

Declawing will be permitted when it is necessary for therapeutic purposes, including:

  • an existing or recurring illness;
  • infection;
  • disease;
  • injury; or
  • an abnormal condition in the claw.

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37 thoughts on “Declawing cats may soon be illegal in New York

  1. It is sad that it has taken this long for this Bill to get traction. There was one Senator holding it up and thank God she is gone. This is long overdue and will save many cats from suffering through that pain – physically and mentally.

    1. Unfortunately, it also means that a lot of cats are going to end up in shelters, or worse yet, released to survive on their own, when certain owners are unable to cope with destruction of furniture, carpets, etc. This is a matter between a practitioner and owner, and, whilst a practitioner should try to steer an owner towards other alternatives, the procedure should not be a matter for legislation. This will also probably lead to an increase in non veterinarians performing the procedure, with the attendant pain and suffering inflicted on the animal from unskilled hands. NY would be better served to enforce its lax practice laws and re institute state boards and ensure the quality of the veterinary services in the state

      1. Thank you for your thoughts. My argument is that all surgery on animals is voluntary, all cause pain. Many cause life long pain much greater that a few days of discomfort from a declaw. Lets outlaw all surgeries on animals because of the pain involved.

        1. Cats suffer from declawing for more than a few days. Some have lifelong neuropathic pain. Declawing changes the cat’s gait (it’s like walking on point shoes!),and this often results in spondylosis and other orthopedic changes. A recent study also showed that many declawed cats, regardless of surgical technique, have retained P-12 fragments. There may be behavioural issues and stress. These cats may end up abandoned, surrendered, or mistreated since they often end up with urinary and/or aggression issues. People unwilling to provide proper scratching surfaces are denying the cat his/her natural need to scratch. Unlike most other surgeries, declawing does not benefit the cat. It is extremely cruel. Cats scratch. We owe it to our clients and patients to educate owners on the need to express this behaviour and how to train appropriately. Doing so is in the interest of the cat’s welfare, and helps create a better human-animal bond. Those who aren’t willing to provide appropriate training and scratching posts should get a different species.

          1. We’ve had 7 cats declawed. All without any issues. They came home from the vet and jumped off furniture. We tried to tell them they weren’t supposed to, but they wouldn’t listen!!They are happy and definitely not in pain. There’s also people who are immunosuppressed and who need a pet more so than anyone else. Capping nails won’t help those folks. Could we please stop legislating everybody’s rights.Roe vs Wade is STILL the law of the land and being undermined in many states. Let’s please leave right to choose, no matter the situation, alone.

      2. That is pure myth–the shelters are full of declawed cats
        because declawing leads to behavior issues such as litter box
        avoidance due to pain and/or biting because their main line
        of defense is gone. Or worse they are dumped outside where they
        can not fend for themselves or defend themselves. I’m involved
        in rescue and I see dumped cats that are half starved full of
        infected wounds, because their owners who couldn’t deal with the
        claws now won’t deal with the biting and/or litter box issues, so
        they dump them to die a slow, horrible death. This is absolutely
        not between the owner and the practitioner. That’s like saying
        because someone owns an animal they can beat it because
        it’s their business–declawing is animal cruelty and
        is banned in over 40 other countries–some
        have never declawed and can’t believe the US does such a barbaric
        thing. This is long overdue and in fact should have never been
        allowed to begin with. Btw, I own three cats, all have claws and
        none destroy my property. Cats can be trained.

        1. I agree with Celticreds. People who would abandon their pet cat due to its claws, should never have gotten a cat in the first place. Also, I have yet to meet a DVM who performs this surgery for free. It is done to make money. I wonder how many would perform a declawing if someone took their cat to a clinic and said, “This cat must be declawed, or I will have to get rid of it, and by the way, I can’t pay for the surgery”.
          I have six cats, all former ferals or rescues, and all with a full compliment of claws. They have access to half a dozen scratching stations and I also use calming spray on a chair that one cat has shown an interest in marking. I have absolutely no problem with these indoor-only cats destroying the furnishings in my house.

      3. Brian–
        This falsehood is perpetuated over and over again. The fact is that data shows just the opposite. There is no basis of fact with your comments.

  2. There are currently over 140 veterinarians in New York State supporting this bill. Veterinary professionals are now more motivated than ever to critically evaluate the research and shelter statistics related to this issue, and I encourage all within the profession to do so. After studying the science, welfare implications and politics of this issue for over a decade, I am of the opinion that New York should join the dozens of countries and multiple cities that have justifiably made this procedure illegal.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts. My argument is that all surgery on animals is voluntary, all cause pain. Many cause life long pain much greater that a few days of discomfort from a declaw. Lets outlaw all surgeries on animals because of the pain involved.

  4. I hope Lawrence Paul Kovac will educate himself about this issue. It has been proven that declaw bans do not increase shelter loads. It has been proven that “declawing” (10 or 18 toe amputations) does not keep cats in homes or save lives. Many “declawed” cats are dumped, and many of those are euthanized as “unadoptable”. What this multple amputation process actually does is cripple the cat for life. Cats need to scratch for many reasons directly related to their physical and mental health. And, since they walk on the toes that are amputated, they are effectively crippled, which causes pain in their legs and backs and shoulders, not just their feet. For life. Read up Lawrence, please.

    1. I have read up, I have 35 years of experience. I have 23 years of laser declaw experience. I have clients children being scratched, I have eyes being damaged, I have diabetices not healing, yes I have clients including myself with thousands of dollars of house damage because all the training in the world did not train the cats to claw on appropriate carpet, trees etc. I have delcawed all my indoor cats with no ill effects except 16, 18 and 24 years of good indoor life. I dare you to tell me 3-4 days of mild discomfort with proper pain management is inhumane when I have clients amputating legs against my recomendation going through horendous pain post surgically to hopefully extend a life from osetosarcoma that I know will come back even though nothing shows on radiographs in the lungs at a given moment. I just had that happen. The onwers regretted their decison and said I was right. I dare you tell me that a spay is not painful, I dare you tell me correcting a fracture is not painful and can have life long pain post surgically. I dare you tell me a back surgery is going to be pain free for the rest of a patients life. My back is not pain free despite a successful decompression surgery. All these are elective surgeries that cause pain. Declaw is elective. Why is one elective surgery ok and not another. Stop this BS and stop vilifying those of us that choose to help clients that have a need to declaw. We all want is best for patient and owner. It may not be your method but that does not make it wrong. I know this is not going to end but it should.

      1. Lawrence Paul Kovac Thank you for your wonderful wise words of wisdom. When all else fails, declaw can be the solution to saving your walls, doors, moldings, lamp shades, sofas and chairs, rugs, etc. Not everyone thinks shredded lamp shades and gouged out sheet rock is ok or a young child that gets scratched just below the eye. I know this is a hot topic, but these “anti” declaw people have no right forcing their beliefs on other people. These are very personal situations that should be decided between the pet owner and their doctor!!

      2. Oh I see, Lawrence, you’re a declaw vet? No wonder
        you spout so many lies. Don’t want to lose that income
        do you? Never mind then. The only thing that will stop
        you is a law banning it. I know your type.

  5. There are very limited instances where a declaw is necessary for the well-being of the cat. It’s purely a human-convenience, with little regard for the feline patient. Contrary to the esteemed mega-practice owner’s opinion, far more damage occurs after a declaw than prior. How about implement your 35 years of experience and teach your clients how to train their cats properly. Maybe you should watch an episode or two of My Cat From Hell.
    How many tail dockings and ear croppings are you still running through your practice? The bulk of common sense practices have eliminated barbaric, unnecessary procedures including declaws long ago. We didn’t need a law to tell us it wasn’t in our patients best interest.

    1. Tell your wisdom to an 80 year old diabetic or a fragile heart patient or an amputee that has 24 hour care that wants a cat as a pet and had no ability to train the pet. I have all three of those situations in my practice at this time. I have a large house call practice and see home situations. You grandiose Utopia is not always possible. I believe in human/animal bond. I believe pets prolong human life. I believe in good care for pets. I Pray you are never in any of the many home situations I have seen in my career as a house call practitioner. These homebound clients are some of my best clients. Yes I have declawed several of their cats. NONE of these cats became behavior problems. I have had post surgery orthopedic surgery pets go bad. By the way this conversation brings a memory. I had a cat castration pet have major post surgery behavior problems. He became an outdoor cat because of that. The client coud not train the cats urinating problem, no declaw on that one.

      1. Lawrence has forgotten his oath: Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

        I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

        I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

      2. Lawrence Paul Kovac – Other surgeries on cats are done for cats’ health reasons. Spaying/neutering is done out of necessity to control cats’ population. Declawing is the only done purely for the owner’s convenience.

        As to diabetics and heart patients who don’t have energy or strength to train the cat, people who are so weak wouldn’t have energy to clean the litter box either or take cats to a vet. Cleaning a litter box requires bending; new litter packages are also heavy. Training the cat to use a scratching post only requires to provide a good sturdy scratching post that is more attractive to the cat than furniture. Yours is a completely ridiculous argument, why not say honestly that you are just trying to protect your income?

  6. Yes this conversation does inspire memories for sure. It inspires memories of assuming cats urinate inappropriately ‘out of spite’ instead of FLUTD, infection or stones, that proper management can virtually eliminate. That special litter like Cat Attract, with appropriate number of available, clean litter boxes makes all the difference in the world.
    It also inspires real conversations about proper selection of cats for those elderly family members and who will be assuming responsibility for that companion cat should the elder require a nursing home or pass away.
    With all due respect, our job also entails educating clients, assisting in solving problems and creating a healthy human-Animal bond. It’s not their job to just ‘know’; it’s our job to help them learn, and not at the expense of the animal all the bloody time.

    Just because we can do it; doesn’t mean we should. It’s our job to tell clients the truth, offer alternatives and provide support and realistic expectations. Again, declawing problems can and do occur long after that ‘few days of pain management’ and unless Zoetis released that new crystal ball, even a skilled professional such as yourself would have no way of knowing which cat is going to be the lucky one.

    This conversation is about an elective, amputation of healthy digits. It’s right up there with debarking. Barbaric, unnecessary and thankfully falling further and further out of favor.

    1. With all due respect some owners just can not get the job done, ie elederly, special needs owners, parents of special needs children. I deal with this home situation and at a therapuetic riding center. I am well versed on many social issues and I adapt the best I can to a given situation. It is not always ideal for anyone invovled. I get the job done in the least harmful manner available. Guys that is what I am trying to get you to understand. A stationary clinic does not give you the opportunity to always see the whole picture. The ideal is the goal but compromise is the norm.

      1. The whole “elderly” comment is complete nonsense. I am near elderly myself taking care of an 89-year old father with Alzheimer’s – talking about destructiveness and behavior problems, I wonder if people who declaw are the same who dump their elderly relatives in nursing homes, and we have no issue with two clawed cat. When my mother was still alive, she often stayed with my then-single cat while I went on vacation. The first thing she told me she found difficult to do was the litter box cleaning. It takes a whole lot more energy than dealing with claws. Again, when people are in no condition to deal with claws, they are likely in no condition to handle other tasks of daily living by themselves.

  7. Yes sir, I completely agree that ideal isn’t always possible. I’m a firm believer the alphabet is A-Z to give us 26 chances to come up with a suitable, reasonable and acceptable game plan, that benefits both human and animal alike. I don’t feel, however, declawing the 12 year old 15# cat qualifies. Occasionally, it’s better to offer rehoming assistance than to torture a pet.

    We spend a very large amount of time helping our clients in the same way you do. We’ve known them, their families, extended families, neighbors and friends since the beginning. We build decades worth of trust and relationships with our clients and cherish them all. We’ve been there from raising through passing with countless pets. Never once though, have we had to compromise a pet to appease an owner. We’ve been truthful and when circumstances have warranted, arranged weekly pet therapy visits when adopting a pet wasn’t going to be best case scenario, based on abilities for a pet to be cared for. We’ve also matched senior pets with senior owners, after evaluating the cat and the abilities of the owner.

    There is nothing more special or important than the human-Animal bond. There are so many ways to successfully enrich lives that doesn’t involve compromising a cat by declaw.

    I applaud your attention and care for your clients, but occasionally, we do have a responsibility to just say no.
    All the best to you and while we may not agree, it’s a pleasure presenting viewpoints to consider.

  8. Just go to NJ and have it done if you live in NY. Better a cat with a home then without one. Also keep your pet a healthy weight and joints issues shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. Problem with that theory Maria is most declawed cats lose their homes due to the “behavior problems” directly related to living with lifelong pain. Healthy weight or not, the cat is crippled and cannot walk correctly or exercise properly, so will have “joint issues” as you call it.All declawed cats suffer.
      When you cut off the weight bearing toes of a cat, it’s a given. New Jersey will be banning this practice soon too. It’s time. Time for vets to honor their oaths and stop mutilating cats for human convenience.

    2. Then I hope NJ will require mandatory microchips and any declawed cat found outdoors the owner and veterinarian fined $500. Maybe you’ll think twice about declawing for just anyone.

      Cats lose happy homes with or without their claws.

  9. Well Annette, I don’t know why a cat would “lose a happy home”. If it’s a happy home, why would the cat lose it? Being outdoors is dangerous for all cats, but especially those that are declawed. I’m not against fines for animal abuse and I think we agree, declawing cats is abuse.

    1. Calvin48- they lose their happy homes because owners can be irresponsible cads. Moving? Out with the cat. ‘Someone’ will find you. New baby? Buh-bye kitty. We can’t possibly take the chance you’ll ‘smother’ junior in his crib. Suddenly ‘allergic’ after 8 years? Rehome the cat…. oh and fail to mention the cat suddenly began urinating beside the litter box and hasn’t had a UA done.

      Cats, for whatever reason, seem to be more expendable. Yes, we sure do agree declawing is a voluntary, unnecessary procedure with absolutely no upside for the cat. Abuse should apply and I pray to God one day it will be considered abuse. The bridges in every major City would melt if we did half the things to dogs that are done to cats. I’ve got many more scars from 30 years in this business from dogs nails than I ever will cats. No one suggests declawing them though.

  10. Stress is a major issue with feline patients. If only we can find a way to alleviate stress our patients will be healthier. No one can tell which stressor will tip a patient over the edge. I have had owners tell me that an ovariohysterectomy “ruined” their cat. She was “never the same again”. I had another experienced cat owner of a fully claws present cat, give a kitty 1 oral dosage of amoxicillin due to an infection. She was never able to touch that cat again. He lived in the house and left the room if she entered it. I would disagree that “most” declawed cats lose their homes due to behavioral problems Maria. That would result in anyone who had ever declawed a cat “NEVER” wanting to declaw again. If doing X always causes Y, we can always learn from that.
    The problem with the ANTIDECLAW education is that what you say is not accurate.
    Doing X does not always cause Y and people who have had one declawed pet 90pluss% of the time will elect to do it again. They are not doing it because they “hate” cats. There are obviously benefits that they see to declawing.
    I am a big believer in Education not Legislation. But if you state that “Declawing causes everything from Baldness to Cancer” you are obviously not educating, you are proselytizing.
    Outlawing Foie Graz production in California does not cause people to not eat it. Educating the ill effects from eating it and really exactly how it is made and what the fat content is etc would be more effective. I do not eat it.
    If you tried to buy Veal in you local grocery store today, you can understand how education has worked. Veal is legal but no one buys it so hardly anyone sells it.
    Get yourselves a good an accurate argument. Maybe a Scientifically validated one, then start educating.
    By the way, we are all Scientists.
    Life begins at fertilization
    And XY is a guy
    There is no surgery that turns a man into a woman
    These are scientific facts that are ignored by politics. They just vote it different.
    Legislation is a political action.
    Legislation can turn wrong into right or right into wrong.
    For every new law there is a new class of Felon.
    By the way I do not declaw cats.

    1. Please tell me 1 upside declawing has to the cat they has no physical problems with the digits. We already know convenience for owners is the reason they declaw. I want to know what is ‘inaccurate’ in the ANTIDECLAWING argument. Name ONE benefit to the animal outside of owner convenience.

  11. Your arguments are full of “ALWAYS” and are overstated.
    “most declawed cats lose their homes due to the “behavior problems” directly related to living with lifelong pain”. The argument is directly from NOMOREAMPUTATIONS above.
    Where is the proof?
    Most owners of declawed cats DO NOT rehome them. Look in the records. This a fallacious argument.
    There are 18 and 19 year old declawed cats out there that the Owners do not recognize as having had any declaw caused painful issues. And that are living in the same homes that they started out in. I would have you do the statistics. Get science involved. Actually do the numbers. Do a survey of the numbers of declaws performed. Then do a survey of the percentage of declawed cats that are rehomed.
    I have not seen a statistical analysis from the Antideclaw side. I just see “ALL” and EVERY and again we blame ALL problems on being declawed.
    All problems in cats do not come from being declawed some come from the attempt to keep them as pets in abnormal environments that they are not suited for with other cats that they don’t like and did not chose for their partners in life. It is a miracle they are kept as pets at all and likely could also be argued as being cruel.

    1. That is quite frankly, a huge load of rubbish.

      I asked, and you deflected: Name 1 benefit declawing has to the cat.

      You speak of overstating, yet you have basically just taken a PETA approach to domestic animal ownership. Who said ‘always’ even once? No one. That’s who.
      Certainly there will be cats who live a nice long life post-declaw without suffering the horrible consequences that MANY do. Contrary to your opinion, there are quite a few volumes of cases where declawing has failed miserably and caused serious physical and emotional harm to the cat. Or, aren’t they important anymore??

      I can hardly wait until every State adopts this law. You’ll have to find another way to make that buck, because there sure isn’t any other reason why it still is being done. Sure isn’t for the cats welfare, that’s for certain.

  12. Annette L.
    Obviously reading completely is not important to you.
    I do not declaw cats. I do not have to give you Just one benefit because I am not arguing that you should declaw your cat. Why should I try to convince you to do it.

    I am asking for cogent, well considered arguments against declawing that would convince an owner not to do it and all you can fall back upon its that
    “Contrary to your opinion, there are quite a few volumes of cases where declawing has failed miserably and caused serious physical and emotional harm to the cat. Or, aren’t they important anymore??”
    This argument is only that improperly declawed cats have problems. I have been a Veterinarian for 39 years. I was a student prior to veterinary school and watched the “IMPROPER” declaw of cats and it was barbaric. There are many things that were done in a barbaric fashion years ago that are not being done now. Education is the key. I have not seen a cat with improper declaw done in the last 20 years. About 5 years before that the “Humane Society” in my town stopped doing them at all. They had been using Resco nail trimmers. They were the source of the improper declaws not the local veterinarians.
    The Veterinarians who declaw are not doing it “for the Fee”.
    Declawing is like spay or neuter, it is a service that the client is asking for and is done one time only. It does not bind a client to the business and produces minimal income for the service provided. It is not a mercenary act. We do not spay and neuter for “Free” either.
    Legislation is not the key education is.
    Intimidation and name calling is not the key.
    The real problem with rehoming pets is that people adopt them or purchase them, who do not think it through in the first place. They do not realize the commitments and the unintended consequences of their actions. In other words they are average people.
    They also marry and divorce and have children or abort them with the same lack of commitment.
    The problem is society.
    You cannot legislate morals, you cannot legislate commitment. You cannot legislate good behavior.

    1. Are you always a ‘yes’ man to your clients? Do you always do what they request? I don’t. I say no when saying yes isn’t in the best interest of the animal in front of me.

      Some of us do actually still do things ‘for free’ up to, including, but not limited to vetting a found kitten from all vaccinations through spay/neuter in my hospital, for a finder who would like to keep the kitten they helped. Yes, some of us do things for free if it helps an animal and a client, but you couldn’t pay me $2000 to declaw a cat that has no medical issue. The answer is simply, ‘no’. Try it sometime. I can’t legislate morals, but I have absolute say what will and won’t happen in my practice, and so does every private practice owner.

      1. Again read my lips I don’t declaw.
        Educate people to not want it. Unfortunately the people who have had a pet properly declawed mostly would do it again. That means 51% or more not all so don’t go ape over this statement. They do not perceive a problem and if they do not see pain, they are going to have no understanding of your position. You will only convert people who have never had a pet declawed or shopped around until they found the CHEAPEST one from the vet using Rescos and had a problem. If you can’t provide convincing scientific evidence that the majority of cats with properly done declaws have scientically quantifiable problems, people will still want it and there should not be a stigma attached for providing the service. Remember I don’t do this so please do not stigmatize me either.
        A large number of feline patients have under recognized djd even when they have all their claws. I have seen many articles about this. I am sure that you have also. I did a toe nail trim on one of these patients today.
        Not all pain and djd comes from declawing.
        I will allow you your opinions, but I will not stigmatize Good Veterinarians if they elect to do these procedures.
        I am glad that you have done some pro bono work. I can assure you that I have also. I also know that the majority of your work you get paid for. I am assuming that you are a self employed Veterinarian?