In New Jersey, declawing cats might soon become a thing of the past. If the bill – which is sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singelton – becomes law, the state will become the first in the U.S. to ban onychetomy, or the inhumane practice of removing a cat’s claws.
On Monday, the bill passed through an Assembly committee. According to New Jersey, the bill would add onychetomy to the list of criminal animal cruelty offenses. The only exception would be declawing for medical purposes, such as to remove a tumor or gangrene.
Singleton said in a statement after the hearing:
“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.”
Any veterinarian that is caught declawing a cat and owners who seek the procedure out could face a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. Violators could also face a civil penalty of up to $500 to $2,000.
According to many animal welfare organizations, onychetomy is both physically and mentally painful for felines. The procedure is typically done to save furniture, but can result in complications down the road. At present, 20 countries around the world have banned the procedure.
Nicole Feddersen, the medical director for the Monmouth County SPCA, calls declawing an “invasive surgery” that puts cats “at risk for pain and lameness. A cat still has urge to scratch but cannot.”
Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sussex) was one of the pet owners who voted against the bill based on his family’s experience. Reportedly, his cat inflicted $600 worth of damage to their home and would have been given back to the shelter if it hadn’t been declawed.
Advocates of the ban have cited studies showing that declawed cats have increased chances of being relinquished to shelters (and are eventually euthanized) because of behavioral tendencies that follow declawing. Such behaviors are not limited to defecating on the carpet and exhibiting increased aggression.