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Are there any states in USA where declawing is illegal ? Which ones?


Question: Are there any states in USA where declawing is illegal ? Which ones?
I volunteer in the U.K. in animal welfare. I have 3 questions which nobody seems to want to answer:

  1. In which states, if any, is declawing illegal in the U.S.
  2. Are there any states that see no problem in declawing?
  3. Do professional veterinary groups allow their members to practice this barbaric mutilation at will? How do they advise member veterinary practices?

This is a concept that is abhorred by the British public and veterinary profession alike.
Answer: Although I know of no official "study" that would answer your questions, I believe I can give it a go.

  1. So far, all the states in the U.S. have resisted attempts to outlaw declawing. The most active attempts at legislation, as far as I know, have been done in California (my home state). The only positive results thus far, was the passage of an assembly bill in 2005, which outlawed the declawing of big cats. One community in the state of California - West Hollywood - has outlawed declawing, largely because of the efforts of a group called The Paw Project. They attempted to have a bill passed (I believe in 2004) that would outlaw declawing, but it died in committee.

    In 2003, I attempted to introduce a bill through my then-Assemblywoman, Lynn Leach. This bill would not outlaw declawing, but would require a full disclosure of the declawing process, including the potential harm, both short-term and long-term, followed by a three-day waiting period for the cat's owner to read all the material before making a final decision. I called it "Disclose and Wait." It was (and still is) my opinion, that far fewer people would choose to declaw, given all the facts. Unfortunately, Ms. Leach turned the "investigation" over to an aide (who is now my local county supervisor). This aide apparently ignored the huge wealth of information and resources I had provided and went directly to the president of the California Veterinary Association, and to the head of our local shelter for advice. Their consensus was that "if declawing were made illegal, more cats would either be 'put down,' or surrendered to shelters." I found this decision insulting, in that none of the above parties seemed to have read my proposal closely enough to see that the proposed bill would NOT outlaw declawing, but would give cat owners the opportunity to make an informed decision before agreeing to irreversable mutilation of their cats.

  2. My personal assumption is that most legislators are either ignorant or apathetic about cats. Although a number of states have passed new animal cruelty laws, they seem oblivious to a veterinary practice that is animal cruelty disguised as "routine" surgery.
  3. In the past, the most powerful veterinary professional group, the AVMA, has condoned declawing for reasons cited above. In recent years, they modified their declawing position statement somewhat, e.g.,

    Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).

    The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy. The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding declawing:

    You can read their full policy on their site. I found it interesting that the second point cited above, resembled my own position with the proposed "Disclose and Wait" bill in California.

    Of all the veterinary groups in the United States, the only one I'm aware of which actively campaigns against declawing, is AVAR (Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. Their position on declawing includes a direct contradiction to the arguments of both the AVMA and CVMA:

    Some veterinarians have argued that some people would have their cats killed if declawing was not an option. We should not, however, allow ourselves to be taken “emotional hostage” like this. If a person really would kill her or his cat in this case, it is reasonable to question the suitability of that person as a feline guardian, especially when there are millions of non-declawed cats living in harmony with people.

    AVAR's full statement on declawing can be read here (This is a Word Doc file.)

    One high-profile veterinarian, Dr. Christianne Schilling (also from my home state), authors a number of Anti-Declawing web sites:


    She also provides a list of Veterinarians who do not declaw.

I hope this information answers your inquiry sufficiently. I, too, abhor declawing, and I firmly believe that fewer people would subject their cats to this unnecessary and mutilating surgery, if they knew more about what it really entails.

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