Would become third state in nation to outlaw declawing procedure

This week, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation that would prohibit declawing, tendonectomy, and similar procedures from being performed on cats in Massachusetts, except in cases of medical necessity to address a condition that jeopardizes a cat’s health — as determined by a licensed veterinarian.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) Advocacy Department has adamantly lobbied support for the proposal and is thrilled the measure has passed its first hurdle.

“Declawing of cats does not improve the human-animal bond and often results in serious medial and behavioral problems,” said ARL Director of Advocacy Ally Blanck. “Banning this cruel practice, which is in essence amputation, will prevent animals in Massachusetts from needless pain and suffering.”

Declawing a cat involves amputating the first bone on each toe, and tendonectomies involve cutting a tendon in each toe that controls the extension of claws.

Cats who have had their claws removed are more likely to experience paw pain, back pain, infection, tissue death, and could be unable to use their legs properly.

They are also more likely to incur nerve damage and bone spurs as a result of claw regrowth and the procedure is commonly performed for human convenience and to prevent damage to furniture, rather than medical necessity.

“The cats of Massachusetts are our beloved friends, and thousands of our Commonwealth’s residents return home from work or school every day looking forward to a warm purr that greets them at the door,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Today, the Senate acted to treat our feline friends as we would any friend—with the kindness and respect to which they are entitled—by passing legislation to outlaw the outdated and cruel procedure of declawing. As we pass today’s legislation, I am thankful to Senator Montigny for sponsoring the bill, Chair Rodrigues and Chair Cronin for their support, and the countless advocates who have brought this issue to the forefront.”

“I’m pleased this compassionate animal protection bill has been passed by the full Senate. Unnecessary declawing of cats in the Commonwealth has no place in our society and should rightfully be constituted as animal abuse. I would like to thank Senator Montigny and the animal rights activists who were largely responsible for this commonsense legislation,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“Declawing cats is a practice we need to leave in the past,” said Senator John J. Cronin (D-Fitchburg), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues and all of the advocates who made this legislation possible.”

“Declawing is an abhorrent practice that most veterinarians view as inhumane,” said Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), a longtime legislative leader for the humane treatment of animals. “But it is also a procedure that is widely misunderstood and requested by owners.  By passing this legislation, veterinarians will no longer have to weigh the choice knowing that if they don’t provide the procedure an owner is likely to just look for someone who will.  This is another step in my commitment to protect animals in the Commonwealth.  As a state we have done far too little to punish heartless abusers and to push back against a weak court system that has too often failed to hold them accountable.  There are too many people who have committed horrendous abuses to animals that have been unpunished and are walking free to continue to do harm.”

S.2552—An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing—would only permit licensed veterinarians to declaw a cat if they determine it is medically necessary. Veterinarians who violate the conditions for performing a declawing may be subject to disciplinary action by their licensure board.

Under this legislation, the civil penalty for violating this prohibition is $1,000 for the first offense, $1,500 for a second offense, and $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense.

If passed into law, Massachusetts would join New York and Maryland as the third state to have enacted statewide bans on declawing.

Additionally, more than a dozen U.S. cities have banned the practice and dozens of countries ban it or consider it illegal.

Get Involved

The bill will now go to the Massachusetts House, and ARL urges animal advocates to contact their state representatives and ask for their support of this measure to further protect cats in Massachusetts.

Find your State Representative here (https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator)

Please visit ARL’s Advocacy page to learn more about the organization’s advocacy efforts and learn more about how you can get involved in the legislative process!