City Bar Statement on Bill to Ban Cat Declawing

The New York City Bar Association and its Animal Law Committee (Christopher Wlach, Chair) applaud the New York State Legislature for its passage of A.1303-B/S.5532-B, which bans the use, for nonmedical purposes, of procedures that “declaw” cats. The procedures—onychectomy, partial or complete phalangectomy, and tendonectomy—are routinely implemented for purely cosmetic or aesthetic reasons, yet they are typically unnecessary and inhumane, roughly comparable to “the amputation of a person’s fingers at the last joint.” Cats that have undergone the procedure are left with significant pain and discomfort that may last years. Moreover, they are subsequently incapable of fully engaging in many normal behaviors: e.g., marking territory, maintaining balance, grooming, climbing and self-defense. As a result, declawed cats are more likely to bite and to exhibit aggressive behavior. Although some raise concerns that owners who are prohibited from declawing will merely abandon or euthanize a cat, studies conducted in cities that have enacted similar bans have failed to demonstrate such a trend. A number of countries worldwide have banned this procedure, and several major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and Denver, have done so as well. The Committee thanks bill-sponsors Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Senator Michael Gianaris for their tireless efforts on the bill’s behalf, and urges Governor Cuomo to sign it into law.