New York Now First State to Ban Declaw


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Assembly person Linda Rosenthal

New York State is now the first U.S. state to ban declawing cats. In June, state lawmakers passed Assembly person Linda Rosenthal (D)Manhattan bill to ban the procedure, which truly amputates cat’s claws.

Governor Cuomo not only signed the bill, but he called the declaw procedure “archaic, inhumane and unnecessary.”

“Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops,” Cuomo added in a statement.

Previously, several California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Denver, CO have banned declaw. Of course, many nations ban declaw including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Sweden, and others.

Also several Canadian provinces have banned declaw. A big difference is that in the U.S. some organized veterinary medical associations are opposed to the ban. That was case in Colorado and in New York, as their state veterinary medical associations fought hard against the bans. In Canada, the bans were not only supported by the veterinary associations but created by them.

Setting the Declaw Record Straight

A declaw isn’t merely clipping nails, it’s cutting off toes

State veterinary associations contend banning declaw will prevent cats from being adopted and encourage euthanasia or at least relinquishment of cats, though their data on such assertions is old.

The New York State Veterinary Medical Association supported declaw only as a last resort for felines that won’t stop scratching furniture or humans — or when the cat’s owner has a weakened immune system, putting them at greater risk of infection from a scratch.

However, these oppositions are frankly “lame.”

For example, regarding the weakened immune system argument, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighs in. The CDC says declawed cats are more likely to bite, and that creates far more an infection risk for anyone with a weakened immune system than scratching might.

The New York Times even printed a story contending that declawed cats are safer for children with special needs, particularly autistic children who may not be able to handle cats in a “normal” fashion. I argue that either pets are supervised by responsible adults, or children who don’t handle pets humanely then shouldn’t have them. Alternatively the Times story didn’t consider is that declawed cats are more likely to bite.

Behavior Modification Works!

Also, today, more than just a few years ago, there are tools regarding behavior modification, to encourage appropriate scratching on posts. For example, there’s now a pheromone product called Feliscratch by Feliway – which directs cats to posts. The product is inexpensive, non-invasive and natural.

Increasingly, published studies indicate that declaw often does long-term damage, sending cats into chronic pain suffered for a lifetime. That pain may or may not be recognized by cat caretakers or at times even veterinary professionals, since cats are so adept at masking when they hurt. However, that pain may lead to inappropriate elimination, and that may lead to a fracture in the human-animal bond, and the cat being relinquished to a shelter or worse just tossed outdoors.

The vet associations suggest pain relief is available, and will solve the problem for any post-declaw pain. “Absolutely not,” admonishes Dr. Robin Downing, a founder of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, and internationally renowned expert on pain and pain management for companion animals. Downing is also a proponent of veterinary ethics, and questions ethics regarding declaw.

As with previous legislation regarding declaw, the non-profit Paw Project was involved. Arguably, while the veterinary association was opposed to the ban, in my experience I suggest that most veterinary professionals are supportive, particularly technicians/nurses and recent vet school grads.

Rosenthal isn’t only pleased regarding New York. She told me, she believes she’s now set up a path for other states to follow.. I talk HERE with Assembly member Linda Rosenthal  on my WGN radio Steve Dale’s Pet World radio show.

Under the new law, which goes into affect immediately, anyone who performs a declawing procedure would face a fine of up to $1,000.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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