Lawmakers in Michigan are considering a bill to make it illegal to declaw cats, which many animal advocates and some veterinarians say impedes the felines’ natural instincts to climb and scratch.
House Bill 4674 would amend the state’s Public Health Code to regulate certain surgical procedures performed on cats like the act of declawing.
The legislation bans “an onychectomy, a partial or complete phalangectomy, or tendonectomy procedure, or any other surgical procedure that prevents normal 4 functioning of the claws, toes, or paws, on a cat.” Declawing involves amputating the last bone on each of the feline’s toe.
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“If you look at your fingers, declawing would be like amputating the last section of each finger,” veterinarian Louise Murray told animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “If you were declawed, you would have 10 little short fingers. It’s amputation times 10.”
The only exception to this prohibition would be if the procedure is deemed medically necessary.
If Michigan’s House of Representatives passes the legislation, the state will join New York and Maryland in banning the controversial practice. New York was the first state to ban the practice in 2019, with Maryland following suit in 2022.
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Opponents of banning declawing say that the surgery is sometimes necessary for the health of the indoor cat as well as the owner’s property along with the possibility of infection of deep scratches.
Proponents of the bill say that the practice is inhumane and unnecessary.
A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that declawing cats resulted in a “significant increase in the odds of developing adverse behaviors,” such as biting, licking the fur and skin raw, displaying aggression, urinating and defecating in inappropriate places and showing signs of back pain.
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PETA says that clawing, while at times frustrating to cat owners, is a “natural, healthy, and important behavior.”