Veterinary Professionals Advocate Against Inhumane Cat Declawing In Rhode Island

An invasive and cruel surgical procedure, which could have been misconstrued as a ‘quick fix’ to stop cats from scratching furniture in the past, has become a prominent topic in legislatures across the country.

New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. have implemented bans on the declawing of cats, although Virginia has a concerning loophole allowing it in certain health-related cases. Thankfully, more states are considering a prohibition on unnecessary declawing — with significant support from the veterinary community.

A bill to ban cat declawing (SB 2007/HB 7052) was approved by the state Senate in April, but has yet to be addressed by the House of Representatives. The Rhode Island legislative session concludes this week.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) released new poll findings revealing that veterinary professionals, including veterinarians, vet techs, and assistants, overwhelmingly oppose cat declawing. This surgical procedure involves a series of amputations of the last bones of a cat’s toes, causing not only immediate pain but also potential life-long issues, such as bleeding, infection, tissue death, nerve damage, arthritis, loss of balance, back pain, and lameness.

Chronic pain from the procedure can also lead to unwanted behavioral responses, such as increased tendency to bite due to the removal of their first natural defense mechanism, and litter box avoidance due to pain.

According to a poll conducted in the northeast states, 73% of veterinary professionals personally oppose cat declawing, and 60% support banning the practice in their state, except for medically necessary cases.

A national poll reveals that 70% of veterinary professionals oppose cat declawing. Opposition is higher among younger professionals, with 85% of those under the age of 50 against it. Additionally, 90% of veterinary professionals with less than 10 years of experience support a statewide ban.

“If the severity and impact of declawing procedures were better understood by the public, this practice would have been banned long ago,” said ALDF’s Executive Director Kim Kelly. “The data shows a shift in priorities for veterinary professionals — with younger generations putting cats’ health and well-being before upholstered furniture. The Animal Legal Defense Fund thanks bill sponsors Senator Melissa Murray and Representative William O’Brien for their steadfast leadership, and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and the full Senate for passing the declaw ban for a second time this session. We are deeply disappointed that the bill has not advanced in the House, but remain determined to protect cats from cruel and unnecessary declaw procedures.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that declawing “should be regarded as major surgery.” The procedure is commonly performed for convenience rather than for the cat’s well-being.

Some of the rationale provided by the participants of the poll for opposing declawing cats included shifting public sentiment about declawing as unacceptable, changing perceptions about cats as family members, the availability of non-invasive alternatives, increased education of clients on the surgery, and opposition to the procedure among newer veterinary professionals challenging outdated perceptions.

In addition to Rhode Island, legislation has been filed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania in 2024. Many large cities have jurisdictional bans, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Madison, West Hollywood, Austin, Denver, Beverly Hills, and Berkeley.

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