Virginia is considering a bill to ban declawing statewide and, while Alley Cat Allies supports a ban, we oppose an amendment added to the bill that creates a dangerous loophole.

What we like about the original HB 1354:

  • The bill makes declawing unlawful.
  • Declawing would only be lawful in rare cases when it is medically necessary for the cat.

What is wrong with the amended HB 1354:

  • The amendment adds a “human health exception” that would allow declawing cats.
  • This amendment supports a false notion that cats and cat scratches are a threat to human health and a justification for declawing.
  • Top human health experts, including the CDC, USPHS, and NIH, agree that declawing is not advised to benefit human health.

We sent a letter to Virginia legislators asking them to please remove the amendment so this declawing ban will truly protect all cats. Read it below.

The Honorable David Marsden, Chair
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources
Virginia General Assembly
Richmond, VA 23219


Dear Chair Marsden and Members of the Committee:

As a representative of Alley Cat Allies, with our more than 40,000 supporters in Virginia, I am writing to express my support for HB 1354 only with the removal of the amendment for an exploitable human health exception, and I urge legislators to please do the same. If enacted into law, this bill will prohibit the declawing of cats, a cruel and painful procedure which involves severing a cat’s toes at the knuckle. However, the amendment must be removed for the bill to effectively protect cats.

While Alley Cat Allies supports the original version of this bill, the recent addition of a so-called human health exception is an unnecessary exploitable loophole. There are options other than the cruel and painful removal of cats’ toes to address these concerns. To illustrate the unreasonableness of the exception would be to understand that we don’t allow people to engage in the cruel removal of dogs’ toes due to a human health exception. Cats should have the same protection.  Top human health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Public Health Service, do not advise declawing cats to benefit human health, even for people who are severely immuno-compromised.

Alley Cat Allies was first established in 1990 and is the leader of the global movement to protect and improve the lives of cats and kittens. We work with lawmakers, shelters, and the public toward humane, nonlethal, effective laws and policies that serve the best interests of cats and the communities in which they live.

Also known as onychectomy, declawing is the surgical amputation of a cats’ toes that is virtually always performed for nontherapeutic purposes. A common but misguided motivation for declawing is to prevent cats from scratching furniture. Many opponents to declawing bans claim that more cats will be relinquished to shelters by frustrated owners, or never find homes at all, if declaw surgery is no longer permitted.1

This has not proven to be the case. After the City of Los Angeles banned declawing in 2009, the number of cats being relinquished to shelters decreased by 43 percent.2 Similarly, a peer-reviewed study on the impact from British Columbia’s 2018 ban on declawing concluded that “legislation banning elective onychectomy does not increase the risk of feline shelter relinquishment – for destructive behavior or overall – and is unlikely to have a significant effect on shelter euthanasia or length of stay.”3

The facts demonstrate that declawing itself causes the behaviors that lead people to relinquish cats. A declawed cat is more likely to exhibit increased aggression and biting to compensate for losing her protective claws, her first line of defense. Declawing also leads to chronic pain, arthritis, balance issues, and back problems. The residual pain associated with declawing also can result in refusal to use the litter box. Biting, aggression, expensive medical issues, and litter box avoidance are among the most common reasons cats lose their homes and are brought to shelters.

Thanks to years of humane education and outreach by Alley Cat Allies and other advocates, people increasingly realize how detrimental declawing can be to a cat’s wellbeing. More have come to learn that declawing is a nontherapeutic and unnecessary surgery that is far more severe than a nail trim.

We invite animals into our homes as companions and family members. Having cats means caring for them, providing for them, and using humane solutions to solve behavioral issues. Claws are an extremely important part of a cat’s anatomy and life. We do not remove a puppy’s teeth to prevent him from chewing on shoes. Instead, understanding this is a behavioral need in response to teething, we provide the puppy with appropriate toys that allow him to carry out his instinctive desire to chew and minimize the discomfort. Similarly, we should not surgically remove a cat’s toes and permanently alter her health and wellbeing when humane behavior modifications are available and affordable.4 Scratching posts, deterrents, regular trimming, nail caps and plenty of toys help to redirect this natural and necessary instinct.

For all of the reasons above, declawing bans are being considered and enacted in more communities every year. New York state enacted a ban in 2019, and Maryland followed in 2022. Washington, D.C., and over a dozen major cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Pittsburgh also prohibit this procedure. Around the world, at least 42 countries, including Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have prohibited the declawing of cats.

Virginia can be at the forefront of our nation’s humane movement to ban declaw surgery and set a wide-reaching example to help ensure cats are no longer forced to undergo the inhumane and painful procedure that is declawing.

I respectfully request that you and the members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources support HB1354 as initially written without amendment  and keep cats’ claws on their paws.

1 Christine Hauser, Cat Declawing Ban in Denver Would Be a First Outside California, N.Y. Times (Oct. 25, 2017), available at

2 Brenda Barnette, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services Department, February 2021.

3 Ellis et al., “Effect of a provincial feline onychectomy ban on cat intake and euthanasia in a British Columbia animal shelter system,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, September, 2021

4, Rubbing or spraying scratching posts with catnip, trimming their claws, nail caps (vinyl nail covers that can be applied by a veterinarian, groomer, or at home), or spraying the cat’s target scratching area with a homemade or commercial deterrent.