Are there any states in USA where declawing is illegal ? Which ones?

Declawing - Animal Cruelty?

Are there any states in USA where declawing is illegal ? Which ones?

So far, most states in the U.S. have resisted attempts to outlaw declawing.

New York

A bill that would make New York the first state in the nation to ban cat declawing is being championed by 115 veterinarians from across the state.

Veterinary support for the bill is being organized by The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and The Paw Project.

Eileen Jefferson, DVM, New York state representative for HSVMA, said: "Declawing involves painful amputations – cutting off the last bone of a cat’s digits. When done for convenience, it is medically and ethically unjustifiable. The research consensus is that at least one in five cats show long-term physical or behavioral problems after being declawed."

According to HSVMA and The Paw Project, these problems include litter box avoidance from pain or stress and increased biting in self-defense. These two problems, not furniture destruction, are the documented top behavioral reasons why cats are brought to U.S. shelters.

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, D-67, introduced the bill last year. It later gained bipartisan support from co-sponsor Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47.

Susan Whittred, DVM, New York co-director for The Paw Project, said: “A relatively high percentage of cats are still being declawed despite all the recommendations against it.

Targeting this problem through legislation is necessary and overdue. This bill is not an infringement on the veterinarian’s role at all. In fact, veterinarians are helping lead the efforts to see it pass."

The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners have changed their statements in the last year to discourage declawing.

Declawing is currently illegal in more than two dozen countries.


One of the most active attempts at legislation have been done in California. The only positive results, thus far, was the passage of an assembly bill in 2005, which outlawed the declawing of big cats. SEveral California cities, including West Hollywood, have outlawed declawing.

In 2003, I attempted to introduce a bill through my then-Assemblywoman, Lynn Leach. This bill would not outlaw declawing, but would require a full disclosure of the declawing process, including the potential harm, both short-term and long-term, followed by a three-day waiting period for the cat's owner to read all the material before making a final decision. I called it "Disclose and Wait." It was (and still is) my opinion, that far fewer people would choose to declaw, given all the facts. 

Unfortunately, Ms. Leach turned the "investigation" over to an aide (who later became our local county supervisor). This aide apparently ignored the huge wealth of information and resources I had provided and went directly to the president of the California Veterinary Association, and to the head of our local shelter for advice. Their consensus was that "if declawing were made illegal, more cats would either be 'put down,' or surrendered to shelters." I found this decision insulting, in that none of the above parties seemed to have read my proposal closely enough to see that the proposed bill would NOT outlaw declawing, but would give cat owners the opportunity to make an informed decision before agreeing to irreversible mutilation of their cats.

Routine Surgery?

My personal assumption is that most legislators are either ignorant or apathetic about cats. Although a number of states have passed new animal cruelty laws, they seem oblivious to a veterinary practice that is animal cruelty disguised as "routine" surgery.

In the past, the most powerful veterinary professional group, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), has condoned declawing for reasons cited above. In recent years, they modified their declawing position statement somewhat, e.g.: Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).

The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy.


One high-profile veterinarian, Dr. Christianne Schilling, authors many anti-declawing websites:

She also provides a list of Veterinarians who do not declaw.