Paws off NJ cat claws: Bill could ban declawing in state

February 10, 2017

Cats throughout New Jersey could be the first to legally keep their claws after a measure prohibiting declawing in the state recently cleared the lower chamber of the legislature. Next, the state senate will vote on the measure, a process that has already been delayed in a state senate committee earlier this week.

The law aims to ban onychectomies and flexor tendonectomies on cats or any other animal unless a veterinarian deems them medically necessary. The practice, often undertaken to prevent cats from shredding furniture or injuring humans or other pets, is already banned in several California cities and in nearly 20 countries.

An onychectomy involves amputating the last bone of each toe on an animals and a flexor tendonectomy involves severing the tendon that controls the claw in each toe, so that the cat keeps its claws but cannot flex or extend them, explained the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton.

“Declawing is a barbaric practice that more often than not is done for the sake of convenience rather than necessity,” Singleton said in an article.

Under the bill, vets who declaw cats other than to address a medical condition, would face a fine of up to $1,000, a term of imprisonment of up to six months, or both. A violator would also be subject to a civil penalty of $500 to $2,000.

According to the article, The American Veterinary Medical Association, which represents more than 89,000 veterinarians, does not support having lawmakers tell doctors what to do and does not agree onychectomies are barbaric.

However, the group said it’s not medically necessary in most cases or even that frequent these days. The AVMA, however, does not recommend tendonectomies.

“It’s a surgical procedure that has complications that go with it,” said AVMA animal welfare division director Dr. Cia Johnson. The group believes declawing should be considered only if the claws pose a risk to the owner and attempts to modify behavior have failed.

Johnson added that scratching is part of a normal feline behavior, and owners can positively reinforce it by providing them with posts, boxes and carpets. Cat owners can also trim their cats’ nails, or veterinarians can place nail caps on to minimize damage.

Cat owner Laura Goode, thinks a ban on declawing would be amazing.

“At the end of day, it’s like removing the tips of their fingers. Cats use them as tools to stretch and to climb,” she said.

James Nelson, a practicing veterinarian for the past 35 years, said declawing today is not as frequent as it once was. When he has performed the procedure, he said it’s usually because a cat was hurting another animal or tearing up furniture. He performed the operation on his own cat when the cat “scratched my own 1-year-old son down to the eye.”

“Cats wake up from the pain medication, and they’re not crying or acting crazy,” Nelson said in the article. “They’re fine.”

The AVMA worries a declawing ban could lead some cat owners to relinquish their pets to shelters, where the animal risks being euthanized if it’s not adopted.

“If the problem behavior can’t be resolved,” Johnson said, “we feel declawing is better than relinquishment.”

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