There 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?