NJ politician introduces statewide declaw ban

July 6, 2016
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

Mirroring legislation in Hawaii and New York, this New Jersey bill would make declaw procedures a crime under animal cruelty law.

Elsewhere in feline declaw news ...

Two other states have seen the introduction of feline declaw legislation: Hawaii and New York. Like the New Jersey bill, these bills were introduced early last year, carried over to this year and have yet to see a scheduled vote.

New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D) has introduced legislation that would make feline declawing an animal cruelty crime in the state.

If the bill passes, veterinarians-or anyone else-performing an onychectomy or flexor tendonectomy procedure on a cat could face a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail and a potential civil of $500 to $2,000.

Only declaws deemed necessary for a therapeutic purpose, such as removal of cancerous tumors, and conducted by a licensed veterinarian would be exempt. In those cases, New Jersey veterinarians would be required to file a written statement with the state Department of Health explaining why the declaw was done and the name and address of the cat's owner.

Feline declaw ban sponsor Troy Singleton (Photo courtesy New Jersey Assembly website)"Therapeutic purpose," the legislation continues, "shall not mean cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or reasons of convenience in keeping or handling the animal." The legislation does not address the worry that some cats may be given up to animal shelters or abandoned in lieu of declawing.

In contrast, the AVMA's policy on "Declawing of domestic cats" addresses directly some of the complicated issues at work in the debate surrounding feline declaws:

The AVMA strongly encourages client education prior to consideration of onychectomy. It is the obligation of the veterinarian to provide cat owners with a complete education with regard to the normal scratching behavior of cats, the procedure itself as well as potential risks to the patient. Onychectomy is an amputation and should be regarded as a major surgery. The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owners in consultation with their veterinarian. 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 an above normal health risk for its owner(s).

The New Jersey bill (click here for the full text) mirrors the language of similar laws introduced last year without scheduled votes in the Hawaii and New York state legislatures.