Bill proposes to make it illegal to declaw cats in Maryland

MARYLAND, United States — A Maryland Senate bill would make the practice of declawing cats illegal in the state.

SB67, sponsored by Montgomery County Senator Cheryl C. Kagan, would ban veterinarians from declawing cats unless the process is necessary for “therapeutic purposes.” If the veterinarian declaws a cat for any other purpose, they could have their license suspended or revoked.

The practice of declawing cats has been banned in several cities and states across the country. New York made headlines for being the first state to ban cat declawing in 2019.

According to reports from the Associated Press, unlike human fingernails, a cat’s claws are attached to bone. To declaw a cat, a veterinarian must slice through the tendon and nerves to remove the last segment of bone from the cat’s toes.

As of February 18, SB67 passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly. Click here to follow the progress of the bill.

Senator JB Jennings has proposed amending the procedure ban bill to have the Maryland Veterinary Board discourage it, continuously educating veterinarians about the procedure and its ramifications on animals and making the practice a means of last remedies for pet owners.

“I understand that it’s a procedure you don’t really want to do to a cat but unfortunately sometimes it’s the last resort procedure you have to do to keep a cat in your home,” Jennings said during the interview. presentation of his amendment. “By banning it completely, except for a medical reason such as a tumour, I truly believe this law will cost a lot of cats their lives.”

Jennings believes that by making the choice to declaw cats, pet owners will simply either dispose of the animals instead or have them put down.

Kagan opposed the amendment saying the multi-step process would introduce bureaucracy since vets would have to report meetings.

Senator Mary Washington opposed the amendment and pointed to the testimony of Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a board-certified veterinarian.

“‘Declawing is a horribly painful and disfiguring operation. It is positively inhumane and conducted solely for the benefit of the owner,'” Washington Dodman quoted. “It has no benefit for the cat, in fact, quite the contrary.”

In February 2020 testimony, Dodman recalled seeing cats recovering from declawing surgery and how he could hardly believe the extreme level of pain they were in as they “ricocheted around the cages of stainless steel recovery”.

The amendment was defeated 18-29.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises against the practice of cat declawing, also known as onychectomy.

“Onychectomy is a surgical amputation and, if performed, multimodal perioperative pain management should be used,” AMVA said on its website.

Instead, AMVA suggests alternative procedures but encourages owners to listen to their veterinarians when making a decision.

Dodman testified that onychectomy can prevent the owner’s furniture from being scratched at the expense of long-term effects, including deformity, lameness and chronic pain. He said many cats often need a second surgery to remove remaining pieces of bone.

Some have compared declawing a cat to the practice of devocalization, a surgical procedure performed on cats and dogs to remove their vocal cords to permanently quiet the animal’s barking or meowing.

Dodman ended his testimony with three lines of advice:

“If you don’t like a scratching cat, get a dog. If you don’t like barking dogs, get a cat. If you don’t like either, get a stuffed animal.”

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