ALBANY, N.Y. – Effective immediately, cat declawing is now illegal in New York State.
On Monday, July 22, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law, making New York the first state in the nation to ban the practice.
“Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By banning this archaic practice, we will ensure that animals are no longer subjected to these inhumane and unnecessary procedures.”
The bill (S.5532B) makes cat declawing illegal “except when necessary for therapeutic purposes” for the cat, Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), the bill’s co-sponsor in the Assembly, said before casting her vote on June 4.
“It’s inhumane. It’s barbaric. It is unnecessary,” Rosenthal said. “It is done for the vanity and the protection of a human’s couch or furniture. I don’t think any of that is a good idea to foist on a cat.”
Offering a dissenting opinion, Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R-Lyons) said he could not support the bill because it did not provide for enough exceptions, such as people with medical issues who might be on blood thinners.
Veterinarians, he said, “totally discourage declawing as much as they possibly can. But at the same time, there are times when it is recommended to do.”
Declawing should be allowed, he said, when the only alternatives are abandonment or euthanasia.
“While medical literature does not recommend declawing in all circumstances in practice,” Manktelow said, “some doctors will not take the risk with their patients’ health or order the patient to remove the cats with claws from their home.”
Rosenthal said the only legitimate reason to remove a cat’s claws is for the sake of its own health.
“Declawing is a barbaric, inhumane guillotining up to the first knuckle,” Rosenthal said. “It leaves bone shards, it leaves pain within what’s left. It leaves phantom pain. It leaves cats with a painful road for the rest of their lives.”
Declawing cats leaves them vulnerable to attacks and “ruins them psychologically,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-North Brooklyn).
Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) said cat owners who are concerned about their furniture “should maybe not have a cat.”
“In fact, I prefer that you don’t have a cat,” DenDekker said. “Because obviously, you don’t understand how a cat operates. If you’re lucky enough, you get to live in their house after you bring them in. They will tell you what you are allowed to do and when you are allowed to do it.”
The bill passed through both the Assembly and Senate on June 4. It was signed on July 22 by Gov. Cuomo.
Sen. Pete Harckham (D-South Salem) voted to support it while Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac) voted against it.
Byrne said he sought the opinion of his Republican predecessor in Albany, Dr. Steven Katz, a veterinarian, before casting his vote.
“While I appreciate and support the intentions of this legislation, it was a flawed bill that once again highlighted how Albany politicians think they know more than the experts in the field,” Byrne said.
Declawing a cat, Byrne said, should remain an option, but only as a “last resort” and only after conferring with a licensed veterinarian.
“Unfortunately, now that declawing has been completely banned, the result may unfortunately lead to increases of even more inhuman practices, such as euthanasia or a growing feral cat population that can also compromise public health,” he said.
The bill, Katz said, will result in less feral cats finding homes.
“Declawing is a small price to pay for an otherwise homeless cat to have a good, loving home for the next 10-15 years,” Katz said. “Anyone who voted to ban declawing is a heartless ignoramus condemning that cat to the whirlwind.”
Assemblyman Charles Levine (D-Glen Gove) said he is proud to stand in support of New York’s four-legged friends, including his own cat, Mr. Kitty, who now resides in the “big litter box in the sky.”
“But I’m sure that Mr. Kitty would be very, very pleased with this bill,” Levine said. “This is a major step for us as human beings and a major step for the state of New York.”