Two U.S. states have now banned declawing as ‘Merica inches closer to joining the rest of the civilized world in prohibiting the brutal practice.
With a stroke of Gov. Larry Hogan’s pen, Maryland became only the second state to ban declawing, joining New York, which outlawed the practice in 2019. Like New York’s version, the new Maryland law prohibits declawing unless it’s deemed medically necessary.
As most cat lovers know, declawing isn’t the manicure-like operation it sounds like. It’s the totally unnecessary, horrific amputation of a cat’s toes up to the first knuckle.
Declawing inflicts a lifetime of pain on cats, changes feline gait and posture, leads to early arthritis and causes a long list of secondary problems. For example, declawed cats are much more likely to bite because they have no other form of defense when they feel threatened, and they’re also much more likely to stop using litter boxes because it hurts to walk on the sand-like and granule texture of the litter with half-amputated toes.
The fact that so much misery is inflicted on innocent animals to protect furniture is indefensible.
The law goes into effect on Oct. 1, and veterinarians who perform the procedure after that time face fines of $1,000 and disciplinary action by the state veterinary board. We’d have preferred immediate implementation and stiffer penalties to prevent a last-minute rush on declawing appointments and discourage anyone considering breaking the law, but a win is a win, and all the major animal advocacy groups are celebrating, as they should.
A ban on declawing passed a key committee vote in Florida this week, while Black Sabbath frontman and reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne has become the new face of a PETA campaign against the harmful practice.
The Florida bill, which was introduced in August, was approved by the state senate’s agricultural committee by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday. It’s expected to pass two more committee votes before it goes to a final vote on the senate floor.
The ban would levy relatively stiff penalties for owners and veterinarians who ignore the law. The former would face fines of $1,000 per cat, while veterinarians would be fined $5,000 per cat, as well as discipline from the state’s Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Meanwhile, Osbourne and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have teamed up for a public announcement campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the damage declawing does to cats.
The ads feature a striking image of Osbourne holding up both hands, with his fingers severed at the first knuckle to illustrate what’s done to cats during the procedure. It’s bloody, like Osbourne’s long-time stage antics, and controversial, like many PETA campaigns.
“Amputating a cat’s toes is twisted and wrong,” Osbourne said, per PETA. “If your couch is more important to you than your cat’s health and happiness, you don’t deserve to have an animal! Get cats a scratching post—don’t mutilate them for life.”
Earlier this week New York became the first state in the US to ban cat declawing, which is a major victory not only for the many people who have been pushing for a ban for years, but especially for the potentially millions of cats who won’t be mutilated for the sake of someone’s couch or drapes.
It’s a time to celebrate, revel in a rare legislative victory for animal welfare, and look ahead toward similar proposals in other states. If more states follow New York, it could pave the way to a national ban.
Innocent, sentient creatures won’t be harmed as they have been for a long time. What could be better than that?
Here come the cat-haters
The thing is, legislation like this brings out the crazies and lots people who think protecting the innocent is a zero-sum game. In their world, helping animals and helping humans are mutually exclusive things instead of two goals that should be part of any coherent moral belief system.
Just because people are suffering in some parts of the world doesn’t mean we can’t help animals, just as helping animals doesn’t preclude us from helping people.
Declawing bans don’t take resources away from starving children in Somalia or America’s urban poor. Compassion for animals doesn’t somehow detract for compassion for people. In fact, all the research points to the opposite: That the way a person treats animals is a strong indicator of how they treat other human beings.
Animal abuse and violence crime
That’s why there’s a link between animal abuse and violent crime against people. Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violence against fellow humans, research shows. Criminologists have been aware of this link for many years, and smart investigators know to keep tabs on animal abusers because they often “graduate” to hurting humans.
That was the case with Luka Magnotta, a notorious animal abuser who, among other crimes, filmed himself feeding a young kitten to a python. Magnotta went on to kill a man with an ice pick, a crime that could have been prevented had detectives in Canada taken Magnotta’s animal abuse more seriously. Animal life has intrinsic value, and Magnotta should have been imprisoned for killing the kitten.
Cats scratch. Get over it.
Then there are the declawing advocates, the people who inexplicably argue that it’s okay to brutally mutilate living, feeling creatures in order to protect inanimate objects like couches and drapes.
One thing should be absolutely clear to anyone looking to adopt a cat: Scratching is completely natural behavior, and it’s your responsibility as caretaker to make sure you provide adequate scratching posts, as well as redirect your cat to those posts and vertical scratchers.
If you can’t or won’t accept that responsibility, you should not adopt a cat.
Of course there are people who will insist declawing has no negative effects on cats. They’re wrong. That’s not a matter of opinion, it’s fact: A 2017 study, the most comprehensive of its kind, detailed a long list of negative effects that result from declawing.
Declawing is NOT a manicure
Declawing, which is the amputation of a cat’s feet up to the first knuckle — and not “kitty manicure” — causes lifelong pain in cats. Because cats are digitigrade animals, meaning they walk with their weight on their toes, the act of walking itself becomes painful. That leads to cats altering their gaits to limit the pain, which in turn leads to poor posture, which ultimately leads to early-onset arthritis and other physical problems, according to the 2017 study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
It’s a cascade of physical problems that leads to misery.
Because cats are famously stoic, doing everything they can not to show pain — they are prey animals as well as predators, after all — it may not be obvious, but declawing hurts them. A lot.
While people may think they’re solving a problem by declawing their cats, they’re creating new ones. Declawed cats are several times more likely to bite because they no longer have their claws for defense. They’re five times more likely to stop using the litter box, because the simple act of standing on litter granules is painful on their raw toe stumps. They’re more likely to be aggressive and ill-tempered.
Insult to injury
Those are all prime reasons why people surrender cats to shelters, causing another type of cascade: One in which a negligent owner has his or her cats declawed, then surrenders the cats because they’re acting out. Declawed cats are twice as likely to be surrendered to shelters as cats who are not declawed.
That directly contradicts claims by proponents of declawing, who say declawed cats are more likely to be adopted. In fact, declawed cats are more likely to end up without homes.
It’s 2019. The information is out there for anyone to look up, and ignorance is no longer an excuse. Declawing is wrong.
Here’s to hoping New York is just the first of many states to ban the barbaric practice.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.