New York poised to become the first state to ban declawing cats

Animal rights activists and veterinary groups have been fighting for years to ban the controversial practice of cat declawing in the United States. According to The Humane Society, the process typically involves removing the last bone of each toe on the cat's paw. "If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle," their website states.

The organization considers declawing to be unnecessary and cruel, except in the most dire circumstances where the cat's health is at risk. What's more, it can cause medical drawbacks, such as pain in the paw, infection and tissue necrosis (tissue death). Rather than subject a cat to surgery, they recommend alternative methods to prevent unwanted scratching, like regular claw trimming and providing scratch posts.

cat claws Credit: Getty

Several countries have banned the contentious procedure, including England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand. The good old U-S-of-A is not listed but now one state is a governor's signature away from implementing the ban.

On Tuesday, New York city lawmakers passed a bill outlawing cat declawing. The measure allows exceptions in the case of medical necessity, but that does not include surgeries for "cosmetic or aesthetic reasons." If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signs the bill, it will become law, and violators could face a $1,000 fine.

Assembly Sponsor and proud cat owner Linda Rosenthal told The New York Times that the law is for pet owners who “think their furniture is more important than their cat.” "[Declawing is] unnecessary, it’s painful, and it causes the cat problems," Rosenthal told the outlet. "It’s just brutal."

New York Human Society director Brian Shapiro told the Times, "Declawing is a convenience surgery, with a very high complication rate, that offers no benefit to the cat." He added that the procedure causes "an increase in biting and litter-box avoidance, which often results in the cat being surrendered to an animal shelter."

Appropriately, the bill was passed on Animal Advocacy Day, a rare bipartisan tradition where Democrats, Republicans and their pets join forces in the Capitol. On social media, animal lovers thunderously applauded the legislation, declaring that it's about time. Cities Los Angeles and Denver already implemented bans, and the states California, New Jersey and Massachusetts are considering them.