New Jersey lawmakers recently introduced Bill A3899, legislation that would make it illegal to declaw a pet. Declawing, which is performed mostly on cats, is a controversial topic among pet owners and veterinarians alike. Some vets simply won’t do it, while others feel the procedure can be performed humanely. Either way, the practice is quite frequent and continues to be requested by many pet owners.
The proposed bill would classify the procedure as animal cruelty and declawing would carry a criminal penalty of $1,000 or up to six month in jail for veterinarians that perform the procedure and people who seek to have it done. Violators could also face a civil fine of $500 to $2,000.
The vast majority of cats are declawed to eliminate unwanted scratching of furniture or people. In some cases, this may be a very valid reason. It’s common among families with young children and if the cat lives with someone who is elderly or has a compromised immune system, a deep scratch could cause a dangerous infection.
Most owners who declaw their cats designate them an indoor cat so that the claws aren’t needed for self-defense, but animal experts say cats need their claws for more than just self-defense. Scratching is a form of exercise, it helps maintain the condition of the nails, and is a functional part of how cats stretch their muscles. Scratching is also a way of leaving territorial markings, both visual and scent-based.
A scratching post offers a healthy alternative to shredding furniture. Many cat owners swear by Soft Paws, a plastic nail cap that is temporarily and humanely glued to the paws. Veterinarians also recommend regular nail trimming and even attempting to train cats against unwanted behavior. If these don’t work, and safety of family members is a concern, it may be better to give the cat away – claws intact – to a shelter or another family.
In rare instances, cats are declawed for medical reasons. This is usually due to an injury or infection that renders one or more claws unable to extend or retract. If the new bill is passed, veterinarians will be permitted to seek permission from the State Department of Health to perform the procedure if it is necessary for the animal’s health, though in most instances there are other options.
Those who oppose the procedure say the cat has to relearn how to walk after being declawed. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that declawed cats find the texture of kitty litter to be painful and will refuse to use the litter box. Others say declawed cats act out and bite more. Many veterinarians agree that declawing causes considerable pain for cats as the surgery literally removes part of their toe.
Ultimately, there is no data to support or refute such statements. Some veterinarians insist that these downsides are overplayed or exaggerated. They could be the result of a cat being declawed when he or she is too old or too heavy (there is no consensus as to the ideal weight or age for declawing) and proper pain management should alleviate any discomfort for the cat.
Until and unless the bill becomes law, the decision to declaw a cat is one that should be made in consultation with a licensed veterinarian.
If you or a loved one has been charged with animal cruelty, it is essential that that you retain an attorney to help you avoid the penalties you may face. Adam H. Rosenblum of the Rosenblum Law Firm is a skilled criminal defense attorney in New Jersey who will advocate on your behalf to have the charges against you dropped or reduced. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 for a free consultation about your case.