Today’s Veterinary Business Staff
New York veterinarians who perform medically unnecessary declaw procedures on cats could be fined $1,000 under a new law that made the state the first in the nation to enact such a ban.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation after its passage in the New York Senate and Assembly.
“Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops,” Cuomo said. “By banning this archaic practice, we will ensure that animals are no longer subjected to these inhumane and unnecessary procedures.”
Tim Atkinson, executive director of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, which opposed the legislation, declined to comment. He pointed to the group’s previous position statement, which stated that an onychectomy “should be an available option when the alternative is abandonment or euthanasia.”
“Many doctors direct that their patients have their cats declawed when they are immuno-compromised, diabetic, hemophiliac, on immune-suppressing medication and for various other medical reasons,” the position statement reads. “While medical literature does not recommend declawing in all circumstances, in practice some doctors will not take that risk with their patient’s health and order the patients to remove cats with claws from their home. These cat owners should not need to face relinquishment or euthanasia of their pet because the option to declaw cats is unavailable.”
The New York law permits an onychectomy to ensure a cat’s health — a therapeutic purpose — but makes no allowance for owners dealing with personal medical issues.
“Therapeutic purpose means the necessity to address the physical medical condition of the cat, such as an existing or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury or abnormal condition in the claw that compromises the cat’s health,” the law reads. “Therapeutic purpose does not include cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or reasons of convenience in keeping or handling the cat.”
The Paw Project, a California-based advocacy group, worked with New York legislators on the law’s passage.
“New York is now the first state to enact a prohibition of declawing and will be a model for other states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, which are currently considering similar cat protection legislation,” said the group’s founder, Jennifer Conrad, DVM.
The $1,000 fine applies to veterinarians or anyone else who “performs an onychectomy, partial or complete phalangectomy, or tendonectomy procedure on any cat,” according to the law.
Among other jurisdictions with declaw prohibitions are Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and several Canadian provinces.