Ending an Inhumane Practice: Declawing Cats

Screen_Shot_2016-07-06_at_12.09.10_PM.pngThere are a lot of important issues facing our state these days. Many have been discussed and debated through my blog posts over the years. One issue that I take very personally is in the area of animal protection and safety. So, while some may not read much of this week’s post past the headline because it isn’t as important to you as it is to me, I invite you to indulge me on this particular topic. Perhaps you will see why I care about it so much.

There are an estimated 82 million cats in the United States, making them among our most popular pets. Yet, there is a “medical” practice that many from around the globe have deemed to be barbaric, out of touch and frankly an unnecessary procedure: declawing.

Animal rights activists regard declawing as an unnecessary amputation — the medical term is Onychectomy — while many potential cat owners demand it before adopting. Veterinaries say they only declaw a cat as a last resort, and yet statistics suggest that between 19 and 46 percent of cats are declawed. The most common reason owners request it (upwards of  95 percent, according to one veterinarian), is because they don’t want their pets to scratch furniture, without understanding alternative solutions.

Except for unquestioned medical reasons, I believe that declawing is a cruel, inhumane act. That’s why I have authored a proposal, A3899, that would make it illegal to declaw cats unless it is a legitimate medical necessity as determined by veterinarian.

The basis for this bill is rooted in my desire is to ensure that we treat animals humanely. I’ve introduced previous bills to protect animals, and my anti-declawing bill would be the first one in the nation to provide protection at the state level. (Some cities in the U.S. have similar laws already on the books, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Burbank, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Culver City and West Hollywood.) Additionally, declawing is already banned in England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark, Israel, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand just to name a few.

To understand why I consider declawing cruel, here is a description provided by the Paw Project, which educates the public about the painful and crippling effects of cat declawing and promotes animal welfare through the abolition of such practices.

“Declawing is amputation,” according to the Paw Project. “It is not merely the removal of the claws. To declaw a cat,the veterinarian cuts off the last knuckles of a cat’s paw — cutting through bone, tendons, skin and nerves. In a person, it is equivalent to amputating each finger or toe at the last joint.”

Just reading that description should make most people uncomfortable.

For a more thorough explanation of the effects of declawing, I highly recommend an overview by Jean Hofve, DVM, at http://bit.ly/28X3KiJ. (A word of caution: The photos can be disturbing.)

This veterinarian professional says “declawing is not a simple or routine surgery. It should never be done as a ‘preventative,’ especially in kittens. Despite their reputation for independence, cats can readily be trained to leave the sofa, curtains or carpet untouched. Using surgery to prevent or correct a behavioral problem is expedient, but it is definitely not the smartest, kindest, most cost-effective or best solution for you and your cat. Your veterinarian has an obligation to educate you as to the nature of the procedure, the risks of anesthesia and surgery, and the potential for serious physical and behavioral complications, both short- and long-term.”

This point was amplified in a May of 2015 Washington Post article that in the previous July, the American Veterinary Medical Association changed its stance on declawing calling it “major surgery that should only be performed after alternatives have been sought to prevent destructive clawing.”

In the course of my research on this topic, I wanted to be sure that taking this action would not lead to more cats not being adopted. I reached out to the aforementioned communities that banned declawing and wanted to know how their ban had affected the number of cats who were sent to the shelter by owners. Five of the eight have their own animal shelters which makes verification of their statistics easier, and IN ALL FIVE, cat intake numbers for their shelters have decreased when the five years prior to the declaw ban and the five years after the declaw ban are compared. 

There has been no statistical evidence that declaw prohibition laws have resulted in a surge of cats being relinquished into the shelter system in any of the five cities for which intake data is available. I share this information because this is an important point. Even a worthwhile action can have negative consequences and if such a ban led to more animals being sent to shelters then it wouldn’t be an action worth taking.

It is not a stretch to suggest that how we treat our pets and the most vulnerable in our society, says a great deal about ourselves and our culture. I believe that basic kindness, thoughtfulness and concern for our pets is an important window into ourselves. That’s why I intend to halt the inhumane declawing of cats in New Jersey. That’s my take, what’s yours?


Showing 10 reactions

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  • commented 2016-11-06 15:37:49 -0500
    Totally inhumane. I was in fact check assist and I know exactly what they have to go through the pain they sell for in the meds they drug him up on
  • commented 2016-07-17 22:36:02 -0400
    Well said! Thank you for introducing this bill! This is a cruel, barbaric procedure that needs to end. You rock!
  • commented 2016-07-12 01:27:31 -0400
    Dear Assemblyman Singleton,

    You’re awesome! Thank you for speaking up for those who have no voice!
  • commented 2016-07-10 12:58:24 -0400
    Thank you sir!
    Sadly none of the vets I have worked with in the last 30 years of rescue has ever mentioned the word amputation or tried to discourage the procedure. They certainly never tell their clients it is illegal in 44 countries. The AVMA embraced this mutilation and created an atmosphere of acceptance. I am 73, I have seen what has transpired since the mid 1950s. The #AVMA tookna mutilation used to disable bait animals, called it declaw rather than call it what it is, precisely because if they said it was amputation, they wouldn’t make any money. You can not respect the feline form and do this to a cat. I will never again trust a vet who disrespect cats.

    Thank you, the amputation of healthy toes for vanity and convenience is a national #disgrace.

    Expect heavy opposition, they like that #blood money.

    You are MAGNIFICENT, thank you again!
  • commented 2016-07-09 21:01:35 -0400
    Declawing is painful, unnecessary and just plain cruel. Thank you to everyone, including Assemblyman Troy Singleton, for raising awareness, educating the public, and proposing legislation to put an end to this harmful, inhumane amputation.
  • commented 2016-07-09 15:36:08 -0400
    Thanks you for your support of banning declawing. How awesome would it be to be the first state to pass this. Please don’t let the lobbying, affluent vets be the voice of cat owners. As a cat owner, I will never declaw a cat! #pawsneedclaws
  • commented 2016-07-08 02:45:27 -0400
    I like in the UK, a country that has never declawed cats. I believe it is pretty much the same in most countries where the procedure is banned i.e. the ban is a technicality as it was never practiced in the first place, ditto ear cropping dogs (since 2006, ALL elective animal mutilation is banned here). We have none of the problems alluded to by the USA and Canadian pro-declaw brigade i.e we do not have hoards of cats abandoned to shelters because they scratched furniture (destructiveness, along with inappropriate toileting are the reasons LEAST found for cats being surrendered to shelters here) and my research shows that insurance claims for household damage by pets runs at 55% dogs and 29% cats (source ‘the insurance blogger’).
  • commented 2016-07-08 01:34:42 -0400
    michael cloud tail docking and ear cropping is awful but not as bad as declawing. At least these unnecessary procedures can be fully healed from. Declawing causes problems that don’t go away as well as causes new ones that remain to be seen in the future. Declawing isn’t merely an inconvenience to a cat or merely horrible post op pain but takes away so much of what makes the cat a cat as well as cause declaw associated pain that can’t be ruled out for the duration of the cats life or in its future . The claws serve more purposes than first meets the eye. They are there for stress relief, communication( with other cats), balance, exercise, defense to name a few and the cat is aware it is compromised in all of this which as implications for the cats physical and mental well being. . I have seen too many times how declawing made a cat a shell of what it once was. Just can’t be compared to ear cropping honestly.
  • commented 2016-07-07 15:39:30 -0400
    Are you going to also include docking tails and ears? Those practices are strictly for aesthetics. At least declawing can have some functional aspect.