N.J. Assembly panel approves declaw ban, Veterinarians Medical Association opposes

New Jersey is on its way to becoming the first state in the country to ban veterinarians from declawing cats.

The bill cleared the Assembly committee on Monday to add onychetomy, the medical term for declawing, to the list of criminal animal cruelty offenses. There would be exceptions for medical purposes.

The New Jersey Veterinarians Medical Association fears that this would increase euthanasia of unwanted cats from the proposed surgical declawing ban.

Representing the 1,600 licensed doctors of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Mike Yurkus called on the Assembly Agricultural Committee to oppose a proposed government ban of surgical declawing, a move that he feared would lead to the increased euthanasia of unwanted cats.

A surgical declaw procedure is recommended by doctors as a last resort, as an alternative to euthanasia or abandonment. A recent survey of NJVMA members shows that the average veterinarian performs less than nine procedures per year utilizing advanced pain control methods.

“We’re the professionals who care for cats and care for the people who love their cats,” said Dr. Yurkus. “We’re not pro declawing, but we are anti-euthanasia. We want to see cats in loving households and not euthanized or relinquished to shelters where they are 72% more likely to be euthanized. We simply ask that you leave the declawing decision to doctors in consultation with their clients.”

While the number of feline patients in veterinary practices has increased, the number of declaws has decreased, indicating that veterinarians are educating clients on alternatives to declawing.  Surveys of those who choose to declaw their pets show overall satisfaction and an increase in the quality of life for the cats and their owners.

Dr. Yurkus also cited neutering as another elective surgical procedure performed under certain circumstances so cats are more accepted and kept from spraying tomcat-scented urine in the home.

The committee ultimately approved the bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington). Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sussex) voted against the bill.

Veterinarians caught declawing a cat and people who seek them out would face a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. Violators would also face a civil penalty of $500 to $2,000, according to the bill (A3899).

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By: Jay Edwards
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