NY lawmakers propose ban on cat declawing; local SPCA stays out of debate

May 18, 2016

State lawmakers, including one from Niagara County, are backing a bill that would end the practice of declawing cats in the state, except when medically necessary. While the SPCA Serving Erie County frowns on the procedure, it is stopping short of taking an official position, and explained that in past years, there was an undesirable unintended consequence.


The Assembly version of the bill would amend the state's agriculture and markets law to prohibit the declawing of cats and other domestic animals. The lead sponsor is Manhattan-based legislator Linda Rosenthal but there are numerous co-sponsors aboard including John Ceretto, who represents the 145th Assembly District.

Credit WBFO File Photo

"When I looked at this bill, I looked at the logic behind it," Ceretto said. "Quite frankly from what I can see, declawing a cat can create other medical issues for the cat, as well as pain."

Opponents of declawing say in addition to removing the cat's nails, the procedure also removes small bits of bone, tendons and ligaments.

Ceretto acknowledged that many cat owners may become frustrated by pets that scratch furniture. A self-described animal lover, the Assemblyman told WBFO that there are two cats in his household now and that with some training, they can be weaned from damaging the family couch.

"I can tell you that you can train for that. You don't have to declaw a cat to stop a cat from clawing your furniture," Ceretto said.

Gina Browning, spokeswoman for the SPCA Serving Erie County, said that many new pet owners are too hasty to pursue declawing before trying other options to discourage scratching.

"There are people who'll make an appointment to go to a veterinarian, with a new kitten they adopt from us, to immediately have that animal declawed, before ever seeing if the cat is going to use its claws and tried any kind of aversive measure," Browning said. "They have plastic toe tips now that fit on the nails. There are different things you can present to the cat as a surface preference."

The SPCA Serving Erie County does not offer declawing service and frowns upon the practice. But Browning says the organization is not taking an official professional position on proposed legislation. She says the debate is new and that her organization is still studying all the details. But they've also, in the past, witnessed an unintended consequence.

She explained that many previous would-be adopters who disclosed an interest in declawing the cat would then, having been discouraged from pursuing the practice, back out of adopting the cat entirely. Many cats ultimately ended euthanized rather than adopted. 

"It was very hard to say that it was OK to turn a potential feline adopter away because that adopter said 'we might be declawing this cat' knowing how many cats were being euthanized," she said.

While New York State Veterinary Medical Society is not backing the bill, it takes the official position that declawing should only be used as a last resort.