There’s exciting news on the front to protect cats from the cruel practice of declawing! California is now considering a statewide declaw ban, which would build on the humane momentum of eight of its cities that outlawed declawing years ago. If the bill passes, California will be the second state in the nation to make declawing illegal, following New York’s ban enacted in 2019.
The bill, California SB 585, is currently in the California Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. If it passes, SB 585 would prohibit nontherapeutic (in other words, not medically necessary) declawing and fine any veterinarian in violation. Alley Cat Allies is rallying Californians to write to and call their legislators in support. If it passes in committee, the next step for the bill would be a vote by the full Senate before moving to the state Assembly.
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Berkeley, Culver City, Burbank, and West Hollywood put an end to declawing within their borders years ago, imposing penalties on veterinarians who declawed a cat for any reason other than the very rare cases where it’s deemed a medical necessity. In the process, they became leaders for the entire country at a time when declawing was still regarded as a commonly accepted procedure.
In these cities, lifesaving changes within shelter systems were a direct result of the declawing bans. When Austin, Texas, was considering its own declaw ban earlier this year (and passed it!), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti penned a letter of support citing his city’s success after outlawing the “antiquated” practice in 2009:
“Opponents to anti-declaw legislation often speculate that there will be a deluge of cats coming into the public shelters system if legal declawing is not available. This emotional claim is not supported by the hard statistics gathered by the Los Angeles Animal Services Department, which serves a city of over 4 million people. There were 26,942 owner-surrendered cats that came into the Los Angeles shelter system in the five years before the Los Angeles declaw ban went into effect, compared to 15,276 owner-surrendered cats in the five years afterward, a reduction of 43.3%.”
Much of California has long acknowledged that declaw surgery, which is an amputation of the last joints of a cats toes rather than a nail trim, is traumatic to cats and can cause permanent damage and lifelong chronic pain. Now is the time to reflect that knowledge and the humane values of so many California communities in state law.