Four states are once again considering legislation that would ban the cruel practice of declawing cats, a move championed by animal advocates, cat experts, and many veterinarians. If passed, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Rhode Island would be the first states in the country to outlaw declawing cats.

New York’s Assembly and Senate Committees on Agriculture are both considering bills that would make declaw surgery illegal, except in rare cases where it is deemed medically necessary.  The Assembly is considering bill A595, and the Senate is mulling over bill S3376.

In New Jersey, the Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources is considering bill A347; the Senate Committee on Economic Growth is considering S1209. New Jersey’s bills also permit declawing when it is medically necessary.

The West Virginia House of Delegates has put forward a similar but stronger bill, H2418. If passed, declaw surgery would be banned and added to the state’s list of animal cruelty offenses.

The Rhode Island House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is considering bill H7341, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering S2296. Both versions in Rhode Island also prohibit declawing and add a new section to their animal cruelty law. Like New York and New Jersey, H7341 and S2296 do permit the procedure when deemed medically necessary.

All four states had introduced declawing bans in the past, but those efforts stalled. Alley Cat Allies is rallying the citizens of these states to speak out in support of the bans, which are long overdue.

To date, Denver, Colo., and eight cities in California, have made declawing cats illegal within the United States. Worldwide, Israel, Switzerland, England, and 39 other countries have banned the practice of declawing cats.

Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that involves amputating the last bone on each of a cat’s toes—the equivalent of cutting off a human’s finger to the first knuckle. It removes a natural and essential part of cats’ anatomy. The procedure is typically done to prevent cats from scratching furniture. Most people don’t realize that declawing can have lasting and harmful effects on cats’ well-being.

Without their claws, cats can have trouble walking and balancing. Also, claws are cats’ main means of defense. They can become more aggressive to compensate when their claws are removed.  Some declawed cats can reject their litter box, as the litter is uncomfortable on their feet. Litter box and aggression issues are the most common reasons cats are surrendered to shelters, where 70 percent are killed nationwide.

Safe, effective, and humane alternatives to declawing are available. For example, to prevent scratching furniture, cat owners can spray designated scratching posts with catnip to make them more enticing, trim cats’ claws, use products like nail caps, or spray furniture with deterrents like citrus scents.

Advocates, veterinarians, and animal shelter staff alike understand that declawing can be more harmful than people know. Animal control officer Brenda Barnette, general manager of animal services in Los Angeles, says very few cats were surrendered to her shelter for scratching. But many more were surrendered for reasons related to post-declaw behavior problems, like biting and litter box refusal. In a letter of support for Denver’s declawing ban, Barnette stated that the rate of owner-surrendered cats in her shelter has decreased by 43.3 percent since the city enacted a declawing ban in 2009.

Declawing bans are fast becoming a way for U.S. communities to create humane change for all cats. Alley Cat Allies will continue supporting cities and states in their efforts to outlaw the practice and protect cats’ wellbeing.

If you live in New York, ask your legislators to support A595 and S3376.

If you live in New Jersey, ask your legislators to support A347 and S1209.

If you live in West Virginia, contact your legislators in support of H2418.

If you live in Rhode Island, contact your legislators in support of H7341.