Massachusetts poised to be 3rd state to pass legislation to ban inhumane practice
BOSTON, Jan. 18, 2024 – Today, the Massachusetts State Senate passed An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing (S. 2552).
This bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny, prohibits inhumane feline declawing, a procedure usually involving the removal of the claws and the first bone of the toes of a cat’s front feet, and sometimes also the hind feet. The equivalent operation would involve amputating a person’s fingertips at the first knuckle. This bill makes exemptions for procedures when there is a therapeutic need, such as removing a cancerous tumor from the nail bed.
Advocates celebrated the passage and praised the Senate for its ongoing commitment to protecting animals in the Commonwealth.
Cat declawing frequently causes serious pain and behavioral concerns. In addition to the pain of recovery and healing, one-in-two declawed cats experience immediate post-surgical complications. Other complications include infection, tissue necrosis, nerve damage, lameness, and arthritis. Ongoing pain caused by declawing can also lead to behavioral issues, often so severe that families choose to surrender their cat. Declawed cats are four times more likely to bite and seven times more likely to develop inappropriate litter box habits.
A growing number of veterinarians across the Commonwealth and the country refuse to declaw cats on ethical grounds, citing that it is an invasive surgery performed for a person’s convenience and not a cat’s wellbeing. Despite this shift, it is estimated that one in four veterinarians offer or will perform the surgery.
Alternatives to declawing to resolve unwanted scratching behaviors include encouraging a cat to use scratching posts by rewarding scratching in the right place with treats and applying double-sided sticky tape to furniture and using citrus or pheromone spray. Owners can also help unwanted scratching by keeping their cat’s nails trimmed.
In 2019, New York became the first state to ban declawing, followed by Maryland and Washington DC in 2022.
The bill is supported by the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Paw Project.
“Declawing of cats does not improve the human-animal bond and often results in serious medical and behavioral problems. Banning this cruel practice, which is in essence amputation, will prevent animals in Massachusetts from needless pain and suffering.” – Ally Blanck, Director of Advocacy for the Animal Rescue League of Boston
“Declawing is an abhorrent practice that most veterinarians view as inhumane, 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.” – Senator Montigny, Chair of the Senate Steering and Policy Committee
“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 thank Senator Montigny and the animal rights activists who are largely responsible for this commonsense legislation,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell, said “We thank the Senate for advancing this bill and again demonstrating their commitment to animal protection. Our animal hospital, Angell Animal Medical Center, has not performed declawing surgery for decades because it is not in the interest of the animal, often involves painful complications, and can create lifelong behavior problems. We are grateful that this unnecessary amputation is one step closer to being prohibited in the state.”
Stephanie Harris, Senior Legislative Affairs Manager for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said “This legislation would protect countless Massachusetts cats from a painful and unnecessary surgical procedure that is for human convenience rather than the cat’s well-being. New York, Maryland, and many major municipalities already ban declawing — and we hope Massachusetts will be next.”
“This legislation marks a big victory towards protecting cats from unnecessary suffering and upholds Massachusetts’ position as a leader in compassionate animal treatment. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Mark Montigny and Senate President Spilka for their unwavering commitment to animal protection,” said Preyel Patel, Massachusetts State Director for The Humane Society of the United States.