This State May Be The First To Ban Veterinarians From Declawing Cats

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on November 17, 2016

Declawing is one of the most hotly debated topics in the cat world. Some people are vehemently against it while others feel it is a necessary evil that allows more cats to find homes rather than languishing in shelters.

This week, the state of New Jersey took a monumental first step towards making onychectomy – the medical term for declawing – a criminal animal cruelty offense.

Under the law, veterinarians caught performing declaw procedures and pet owners who seek them out would face fines up to $1,000 and/or jail terms of up to one year. A civil penalty of $500 – $2,000 would also apply. In rare cases where onychectomies are performed for medical reasons, exceptions would be made.

The legislation cleared an Assembly committee Monday evening. If passed into law, New Jersey would become the first to ban declawing on a state-wide level. California cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Burbank, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Culver City have already enacted declaw bans, and New York is working on similar legislation.

Varying opinions were raised at the hearing as to just how invasive, painful and life-altering the procedure really is for a cat. Animal welfare organizations have long opposed declawing, citing the possibility of forever altering the animal’s personality and temperament.

They list ongoing pain and discomfort, trouble using the litter box, increased fear and anxiety, even biting and aggression as potential side effects.

Dr. Michael Yurkus – a member of the New Jersey Veterinary Association – opposed the bill, stating that major advances in surgical techniques and pain management have been made in recent years.

“Only the claw bed is removed. We do not cut bone, and the pain medicine that is available today was not available decades ago.”

Yurkus also mentioned his fear that the law would prevent some people from adopting cats and encourage others to abandon their pets due to frustration over damaged furniture.

“We are not pro-declaw, but we want to prevent them from being relinquished and eventually euthanized. We feel this is between a licensed vet and the client, and should not be regulated by the government.”

Just about 8 weeks old, Galaxy is a sweet playful #kitten who will be available for #adoption after his neuter surgery…

Posted by Trenton Cats Rescue on Saturday, October 29, 2016


Assemblyman Troy Singleton, who sponsored the legislation, shared his own thoughts on the matter after his victory Monday night.

“Declawing is a barbaric practice that more often than not is done for the sake of convenience rather than necessity. Many countries worldwide acknowledge the inhumane nature of declawing, which causes extreme pain to cats. It’s time for New Jersey to join them.”

Declawing remains quite popular in the United States with somewhere between 19 and 46% of household cats having had the procedure. However, it has long been banned as “unnecessary” and “inhumane” in England and several other European countries.

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Featured Image via Instagram/@TheKittenBears