Animal rights and veterinary groups for years have urged owners...

Animal rights and veterinary groups for years have urged owners to declaw cats only in certain cases. Credit: AP/Mike Groll

ALBANY — The surgical declawing of cats was outlawed in New York on Monday when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation into law.

"Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops," Cuomo said. "By banning this archaic practice, we will ensure that animals are no longer subjected to these inhumane and unnecessary procedures."

Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who co-sponsored the bill, which drew strong support in the State Legislature, says the state law is the first in the nation.

“Declawing is cruelty, plain and simple, and with so many low-cost and pain-free alternatives available, there is no reason to allow this barbaric practice to continue, not here in New York or anywhere,” Rosenthal said. “New York has been catapulted onto the leaderboard of humane states, and we expect other states to quickly follow in our footsteps."

Supporters said cats’ claws help in climbing, stretching and relieving stress as well as in self-defense. The operation removes most or all of the last bone in each of the toes of the front feet and severs tendons, nerves and ligaments that can alter a cat’s gait and can lead to spinal problems. The procedure also can create intense, chronic pain and abscesses, according to the bill.

Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), the Senate sponsor, called the process “a brutal procedure similar to severing a human finger at the first knuckle.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association  has for years urged owners to declaw cats only as a last resort and only after consultation with a vet.

The Humane Society of the United States also opposes declawing except for special cases such as removal of cancer.

"Declawing can make a cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite," the Humane Society states. "Declawing also can cause lasting physical problems for your cat."

The law is effective immediately.

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