New Jersey May Become The First State To Ban Declawing Cats

Photo credit: Jennifer C./Flickr

New Jersey is on its way to becoming the first state in the country to ban the declawing of cats.

On Monday, the New Jersey Assembly’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed A3899. Under this bill, declawing a cat is a criminal offense, which may be punished with a fine of up to $1,000, and a six months in prison, on top of civil penalties.

The only exception is if a veterinarian certifies that the cat (or other animal) must be declawed for a “therapeutic purpose” — defined as relating to infections or other medical conditions, but “would not include cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or reasons of convenience in keeping or handling the animal.”

Photo credit: Tricia Hall/Flickr
Photo credit: Tricia Hall/Flickr

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund looks forward to New Jersey’s becoming the first state in the nation to hold veterinarians accountable to their Oath by prohibiting this painful and needless procedure,” Jeff Pierce, legislative counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, told Shelter Me. “The people of New Jersey are proving further that animals like the cats with whom we share our homes are not mere property but beings with a legally cognizable interest in their own health and welfare.”

Indeed, many animal welfare organizations oppose the practice — which, the Humane Society of the United States describes thusly:

Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.

Detractors — including Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sussex), who voted against the bill — argue a ban on declawing could be counterproductive, by leading to cats losing their homes.

“It was either getting declawed or going back to the shelter,” Space said of his own cat, whose claws were removed after scratching up some furniture.

Photo credit: Jennifer C./Flickr
Photo credit: Jennifer C./Flickr

It is illegal to declaw cats in the United Kingdom, Australia, and some 20 other countries. New York’s legislature is considering its own ban, which is still in committee.

Thus far in the United States, declawing has been banned in a handful of California cities, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Beverly Hills. (Worth noting: San Francisco is considered to be this country’s first “no kill” city, which cuts against the theory that a declawing ban would lead to major troubling outcomes for cats.)

“Declawing is a barbaric practice that more often than not is done for the sake of convenience rather than necessity,” the New Jersey bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), said in a statement. “Many countries worldwide acknowledge the inhumane nature of declawing, which causes extreme pain to cats. It’s time for New Jersey to join them.”

The next step is for the full Assembly to vote on the bill. A local NBC affiliate reports that no date has yet been set for that vote. Hopefully, they will get meow-ving soon.

Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood is an animal writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, she was animal welfare editor at The Huffington Post. Arin is a former lawyer (J.D. from Columbia Law School, member of the New York Bar), life long animal lover, pit bull advocate, and devoted fan of cats and dogs who run for public office. Her first novel, Tropical Depression -- based on her five-odd, sometimes very odd, years living on a small island near Guam -- was published by teeny indie publisher Back Porch Books in 2011. Her second book, a comic young adult mystery called Save The Enemy, was published by Soho Teen in November 2013. Hello From Dog Island!, Arin's third book, will be published by Soho Teen in 2018. Know a shelter with a great, innovative program? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at aringreenwood@gmail.com!