Lawmakers are considering whether to make New Jersey the second state to mostly outlaw the declawing of cats, except in cases where it’s deemed necessary for the animal’s health.

Advocates for the bill, S920/A1087, say the practice is painful and more often than not done out of convenience, not necessity.

“Declawing is seen by many as a quick fix for unwanted scratching by cats,” said Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, the bill’s lead sponsor. “However, these invasive procedures are medically unnecessary and can cause lasting physical problems and other consequences for cats.”

“How this is still not considered cruelty is beyond me,” said Kathy McGuire, president and founder of New Jersey Aid for Animals. “If you ever watch a YouTube video or see it in person how a cat is declawed, it’s pretty barbaric.”

An organization of veterinarians opposes it, saying the procedure is rare but that the decision should be left to doctors and cat owners.

“We are not pro-declaw. We do actually very few declaws. But we strongly oppose a ban because we are anti-abandonment, anti-euthanasia,” said Mike Yurkus, chairman of the legislative committee for New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association.

Yurkas said cats are sometimes surrendered because it can be destructive or because a person develops a health problem – such as an autoimmune disease, or needing chemotherapy, or taking a blood thinner – and can’t risk being scratched.

“A declaw is the only way we have in some cases to keep a cat in a loving home,” Yurkas said.

“Cats that are surrendered in the United States, 70% of them who go into a shelter will never come out of that shelter. It’s a death sentence,” he said.

Brian Hackett, New Jersey state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said “it’s virtually unnecessary to declaw a cat for reasons of human health” and that the bill has an exception that allows it if needed for a cat’s health.

“Most veterinarians and related associations actually don’t support declawing,” Hackett said.

Under the proposed bill, veterinarians who declaw cats or other animals could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail, plus a civil penalty of between $500 and $2,000.

Cat declawing is banned in some countries and U.S. cities. New York enacted the first state ban on cat declawing last year, and similar bills have been introduced in a number of other states. New Hampshire lawmakers defeated such a bill two weeks ago.

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The bill was endorsed by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, then sent not to the full Senate but to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Its Assembly counterpart is before the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

The Assembly passed the bill two sessions ago, in 2017, by a 42-10-12 vote. A subsequent version got through the Senate Economic Growth Committee in 2018, then stalled in the budget committee.


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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