Murray bill would prohibit declawing


STATE HOUSE – Sen. Melissa Murray has introduced legislation to prohibit the declawing of cats or other animals in most cases.

Onychectomy, or declawing, is not just a permanent nail clipping, noted a release on the legislation.

“It is the amputation of the final bone in an animal’s toes,” notes the release. “It can cause infection, paw pain, nerve damage, lameness and back pain, and has been shown to increase the risks for biting, aggression and house soiling among cats.”

Cats’ claws are integral to their natural behaviors, including stretching and playing, and for that reason, many veterinarians will not perform onychectomies, note supporters of the ban, stating that there are simpler and safer alternatives to discourage cats from scratching furniture or people, most notably providing them with a scratching post or other appropriate scratching material.

“Declawing is painful, risky and unnecessary. It’s no way to treat any animal,” said Murray Democrat who represents District 24 in Woonsocket and North Smithfield. “Fortunately, there has been growing awareness of the risks and cruelty of declawing. It’s time for Rhode Island to put an end to it altogether and stop tacitly accepting this form of animal abuse.”

The legislation – 2022-S 2445 – would prohibit declawing of a cat or any other animal unless a licensed veterinarian has determined that the procedure is necessary for a therapeutic purpose. Violators would face fines of up to $1,000.

Rhode Island already prohibits landlords from requiring tenants’ cats to be declawed. Federal housing laws prohibit such conditions in public housing nationwide.

Onychectomy is banned in at least 22 countries. New York prohibited it in 2019, and numerous cities around the country have local bans. Both the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are opposed to declawing.

A companion bill – 2022-H 7574 – is sponsored in the House by Rep. William O’Brien, a Democrat from District 54 in North Providence.

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