Senate Bill Would Allow Rhode Island Cats to Keep Their Claws

By CHAD NELSON

We should thank Rhode Island senators Elaine Morgan, Thomas Paolino, Dominick Ruggerio, Leonidas Raptakis and Maryellen Goodwin for sponsoring bill 2296, which would effectively outlaw the cruel and unnecessary veterinary practice of declawing cats.

Passage of the bill would make Rhode Island the first state to enact such a ban. Until now, declawing bans have only occurred on local and municipal levels in the United States. Several countries, however, including most in the European Union, have made declawing illegal. It’s time we catch up.

Many well-meaning cat owners simply aren’t informed about declawing. They often believe declawing is as routine as a manicure. Sadly, declawing is a painful surgery that involves amputations of a cat’s toes, akin to a human having his or her fingers cut off at the last knuckle. Declawing — a procedure technically called onychectomy — not only entails 10 to 20 individual amputations, it also severs nerves, tendons and ligaments, sometimes causing lasting ambulatory issues.

Other side effects of declawing are often worse than the behavior cat owners seek to remedy. Declawed cats are much more likely to bite, exhibit aggression, and eliminate outside their litter boxes. I’m never surprised to see declawed cats wind up at the shelter, since their behavioral issues are usually compounded after the amputations. There are many humane ways to stop cats from scratching furniture that don’t require the permanent mutilation of their toes and feet.

Senate bill 2296 is scheduled for hearing and consideration March 22 by the Senate Committee on Judiciary. Let’s urge our elected officials to do the right thing, and end this barbaric and counterproductive practice. Animal welfare and public health require it.

Providence resident Chad Nelson is the public relations director for PawsWatch, Rhode Island’s volunteer network for feral cats. He also volunteers at the Providence Animal Rescue League.