By Dan Whateley

If animals could vote,  New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal would be governor in no time. As representative for the Upper West Side since 2006, Rosenthal has sponsored more than 15 bills supporting animal rights, including a recent law allowing dogs to join their owners at outdoor cafes.  Now she is addressing the controversial practice of declawing cats by sponsoring a bill to ban the surgery.

“People need to learn how to handle cats who scratch,” Rosenthal (at right) said in a recent phone interview. “There is an exemption in the bill for serious medical issues, not cosmetic…certainly the vets can do what they have to do to help the cat. But not because an owner has expensive furniture or furniture that takes precedence over their cat’s needs.”

Many pet owners remove their cat’s claws to avoid feline damage to furniture, though there are cases where veterinarians recommend declawing when an owner is immunocompromised, rendering them vulnerable to cat scratches. Proponents of the legislation say the surgery, which involves amputation of the first knuckle of each toe, can negatively affect a cat’s gait, litter box usage, and cause other behavioral problems like biting.

The bill, A00595, currently sits in committee, where Rosenthal aims to rally support from colleagues and gain additional sponsors. Supporters of the bill gathered in Albany earlier this month to raise awareness for the legislation. Animal rights organizations, including the Humane Society of New York and the California-based Paw Project, have offered their backing. Rosenthal said she’s received thousands of signatures supporting the bill’s passage, as well as various levels of celebrity endorsements, including one from Black Sabbath bassist, Geezer Butler.

While there are a number of veterinarians publicly supporting the bill, the New York State Veterinary Medical Society published an oppositional memorandum in October of last year, citing government overstep and concerns that it will lead to an increase in the number of cats sent to shelters for destructive scratching behavior that can no longer be remedied through declawing. “Medical decisions should be left to the sound discretion of fully trained, licensed and state supervised professionals operating within appropriate standards of practice,” the memorandum said. “They [veterinarians] really don’t like legislators to get involved,” Rosenthal acknowledged, “but they need to change their practice and they’re not, so that’s why we have to step up.”

As a long-time cat owner,  Rosenthal herself is not immune to the issue. “When you adopt an animal, you are responsible for their life and their well-being. My cat scratches my sheets,” she admitted. “Go for it!  I’ll just find new ones. It’s a good excuse.”

Stock cat photo via Mr.Nikon/Shutterstock.com.

NEWS | 38 comments | permalink
    1. B.B. says:

      New York City has a record homeless population, rapid and growing inequality on many levels and a host of other issues; and *THIS* is what Ms. Rosenthal spend her time upon? As if both NYC and or NYS don’t already have a vast and bewildering array of “nanny” laws that aim to oversee almost all aspects of private life.

      • Lori says:

        I am against characterizing something that benefits society and others (possibly at the cost of privacy) as “nanny laws”. We need some regulation to make sure we are making the best long-term choices for our world. So, regulation, is not “nanny laws”. It is called good leadership.

        That said, I am an animal lover, and believe we should focus on banning the horse carriages, banning pet stores, providing public funding for spay and neuter, and a whole host of other things but am NOT against declawing. We’ve declawed all of our rescued cats, and after the surgery, they were the happiest cats who lived happy long safe indoor lives. At the same time, our furniture stayed intact. If done by a good vet, and the cat is not going to be outdoors ever then there’s nothing inhumane about declawing.

      • Paul RL says:

        {{{{{mic drop}}}}}

        Bravo, B.B.!

      • EL says:

        Right on.

      • Tommy says:

        That’s why I’m voting for Mel Wymore this coming election.

    2. Paul RL says:

      Ted Nugent might actually agree with her on this one.

    3. ML says:

      Especially in a city with smaller residences and exclusively indoor cats (as all should be imo), this is ridiculous. It’s not ear and tail cropping for “aesthetics.” I’ve had two cats, got both declawed, and they were/are awesome, playful, happy and healthy.

    4. Bill says:

      Thank you Linda for your extrodinary leadership for animal protection and people protection. You represent the best in New York.

      • Tostonesfix says:

        Gotta disagree with you on that one Bill! Yuck. Legislators like Linda Rosenthal make it difficult for me to justify living in New York City. They just don’t represent me in the least.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          because you are in favor of cat declawing? this law would make it hard to for you to live in NY?

    5. Sara says:

      I am the consummate animal lover. I have rescued and saved 1 dog and 4 cats, refuse to support zoos, eat a vegetarian diet, am against factory farming, disgusted by the Yulin Festival, have marched against fur and the horse carriages in New York, and have attended Humane Society events.

      That said, I’ve had 3 cats (all rescues) declawed. It was almost a non-event in their lives. I know that I would NEVER let them go back outside or give them up so they will NEVER need to defend themselves. The surgery itself, while a surgery, is no more severe than neutering. When we began rescuing cats, our cat scratched all of the wood paneling in our apartment and while we would never have given him up, declawing him made sense and saved all of our furniture. It was a non-issue for all of my cats, and I don’t regret it. It enabled us to rescue cats AND have non-destroyed furniture.

      I think all this hype about declawing being cruel is too much. IF someone is a good owner and would NEVER give up there pet AND they go to a reputable vet for the declawing after doing due diligence THEN it’s a non-issue. If it’s the difference between saving more cats and declawing them, or not saving the cats, I would much rather have people save cats and give them a good life.

      Our 3 declawed cats (two now deceased of old age) lived like kings and queens. We rescued 2 from the street, and one from the Humane Society in Harlem. We only used good, reputable vets to declaw and were willing to pay for a good, reputable vet.

      All this considered, we need to ban pet stores, ban factory farming, ban the horse carriages, and so much more before worrying about banning declawing.

      It’s a matter of priorities. There are much worse things going on for animals. Declawing is not inhumane (given that the animal is never outside and the vet is reputable) and we should focus our limited resources of time, money and energy on the things mentioned above.

      Thank you.

      • ML says:

        NAILED IT.

      • Royce Cara Berler says:

        For all you people who are rationalizing the equivalent of amputation your cats fingers from the knuckles down..good on you..you all seem to be animal.livers until there is something that might be inconvenient for you..the veterinary community nationwide has all practically stopped this practice..there is a reason..IT IS NOT HUMANE. I am not telling you not to do it, belief me I get it, I just bought a new couch because the previous one was ripped to shreds..not so convenient..but at least if you do it, be honest with yourself..it is not humane and completely selfish..own it, do it with conviction, but don’t sit here and try to say it is not as bad as, or their fine..people with amputated legs can be fine too but they certainly would have preferred to have their legs…all I am saying is, if you choose to do this inhumane behavior, just be honest with your selfish self as to what you are doing! And spare the rest of us your excuses..

    6. GG says:

      Another example of liberals and activists going too far and actually harming their own cause.

      This will dissuade many from adopting and that should be the goal here. Saving as many animals as possible. When will people learn that you can’t run peoples lives and impose your ideas and beliefs on others. Sound familiar?

      • Enoughisenough says:

        This has nothing to do with “liberals”. It has to do with good governance and showing leadership. Conservatives are imposing their beliefs on us all the time. We don’t want guns in our country. We don’t want people hoarding billions of dollars while others are starving. Yet, it’s all around us. Greed has gone too far.

        That said, I think we should prioritize saving homeless animals and stopping domestic abuse of children and animals before we focus on declawing. As long as it’s done by a REPUTABLE vet and the cat is an indoor cat it’s not a big deal.

      • Mark says:

        Just curious – how is this a “liberal” cause?

        • GG says:

          It wasn’t meant to be offensive or anything. I like to think of myself as a liberal. I don’t think it’s a bad word, just like activist isn’t a bad word.

          My reasoning is simply this…have you ever met a conservative or Republican who gave a damn about animals? These are the hunters and anti-environment folks and they see animal rights (a very legitimate, serious and personal issue to me actually)as a joke for vegan hippies and so on. You know what I mean. They think we are all too busy saving the whales and stopping them from clubbing baby seals for money or whatever they do it for. I mean, do they eat them or something? the fur? I don’t know.:)

          I’m with the animal lovers on this, I just think this is going to stop some people from adopting and I don’t think we should do that. It’s not perfect but it’s better than the alternative. I’d rather they be clawless lounging on a nice leather Roche Bobois couch on the UWS than in the shelter or god forbid, put down. That’s all.

          • Mark says:

            Glad you’re an animal lover – but it’s pretty silly to characterize animal rights as liberal or conservative.
            I think your assumption about conservatives not caring about animal rights is wrong.

            • GG says:

              You think Republicans care about animals? They don’t even care about people.:)

              Anyway, I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree about this one.

              Hope you have a nice weekend.

          • sg says:

            Better to know what you’re talking about before you pontificate and look like a fool. I am a Conservative and love animals. I adopted 3 cats from a rescue in NJ (before we moved into the UWS) and regularly donate to that organization as well as Neighborhood Cats and the AICPA.

            • GG says:

              Oh, so you are the one? I’m sure you have heard this expression before…

              “The exception cannot be used to prove the rule”

              Anyway, as far as looking like a fool…it isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last.:)

              Hope you and your little kittys have a nice weekend.

    7. EGF says:

      I grew up with 2 cats both of which were declawed (front claws only) and both of which lead long, active, and happy lives. Both of these cats went outside daily and still managed to bring home birds and other small wildlife all the while preserving my mothers precious furniture. The fact that we have elected officials spending time on issues like this is much more of a cruel practice.

    8. Phyllis says:

      Anyone that declaws their cat is cruel and LAZY! It is AMPUTATION OF THEIR TOES!It causes pain and tendons to retract. BUY some scratching posts! Some are vertical scratchers and other cats prefer horizontal surfaces.There are herbal remedies to place on or near your furniture. Also, use sofa covers.Rub the posts w catnip to attract the cat.People are lazy. I have had cats all my life, and more than one. Lazy spoiled materialistic humans.Societies other issues are also important. This doesn’t exclude other issue for people or animals. Train yourself.The problem is NOT with the cat!! Lazy people.

      • lynn says:

        I agree with Phyllis. Funny how some animal lovers are saying that declawing is best for the cat, but then go on and on about how their furniture was destroyed.

        • nomoregreed says:

          No one said or tried to suggest that it’s “best for the cat.” Obviously, it’s best for the cat to have claws. That said, in the bigger picture, if more people can adopt cats because it’s not a question of claws versus furniture then that’s more important. It’s a question of making choices and deciding what is more important. It’s more important to make it as easy as possible for good people to adopt and rescue cats. Period.

      • Toomuchgreed says:

        We have limited time, energy and funds. We need to prioritize. If the world were perfect, and there were no homeless animals, or abused animals, or horse carriages, or circuses, or factory farming then we could/should discuss this. Until such time, this is not a priority. I’ve had all of my cats declawed and they lived wonderful lives. It’s a non-issue for the cats. They don’t suffer any more than they suffer when they are neutered. As long as they don’t need to defend themselves (since they are indoor cats), then this is not a priority.

    9. Ted says:

      I am glad that everyone is so concerned about the cat population’s claws but apparently have no qualms about mutilating their reproductive system. That’s gotta hurt.

    10. jezbel says:

      This should have been a law for as long as we’ve had leash-laws. It’s to keep veterinarians on the same page. I was given a cat (as a gift) 40 yrs ago and when I took her to the vet to talk about shots, I also asked about de-clawing. (I’d only had dogs prior.) Luckily my vet was well educated and explained that de-clawing is cruel & inhumane. True, cats recover and live – so to other animals with amputated limbs. De-clawing is severing the top digit on a cat’s “finger”. It’s not nail removal. It is extremely painful. Many cats lose the ability to balance properly, some become aggressive because they are defenseless. But it’s unnecessary. I’ve had 6 cats since then, none was declawed. When they were young I introduced cat “condos” and scratching posts, used some catnip to get them started. I’ve never lost a piece of furniture to a kitty. Glad to see it on the docket. Vets need to know how to treat animals properly and not to maim them to please human owners.

      • lynn says:

        Thank you for posting this Jezebel. ITA that there’s no good reason to have a cat declawed.

      • Julie says:

        If declawing is the difference between giving a rescue cat a good home or not I bet the cat would rather have a good home. There are so many rescue cats that need homes. We need to make it easier for people to adopt animals and give them a good life. This new law, if enacted, will stop many from adopting rescue cats. So the cat will have claws but no home, probably be euthanized, or stuck in a cage at animal care & control. Very short sighted and intrusive.

        • Cat says:

          So, the cat will have claws and no home,

          OR the cat have no claws in your home and you’ll have nice furniture,

          OR you can learn to care for a cat with claws (it’s natural state).

    11. Rosemary C. says:

      It’s barbaric and inhumane to declaw a cat. People rationalize that it’s best for the cat but anyone who genuinely loves, respects and understands their feline friends would never declaw. As far as permitting this abusive practice to continue “as a last resort,” I say no. It’s too easy to bend the truth to suit an owner of convenience. Animals should not be treated as disposable commodities. If you’re going to enact a measure, do it right. Better to pass a law with teeth, claws and integrity. How a society treats its animal companions is telling.

      • ML says:

        Nonsense. Stop the babble and try to join us in the real world. Cat is declawed with temporary discomfort and gets a forever home. Cat is not declawed, ends up being killed in a shelter.
        Use your brain, please, because you don’t sound anything like an animal lover.

    12. Patti says:

      Thank you, Linda, for caring about animals!! Animals keep us civilized.

    13. Judith Davidsen says:

      Has anyone done any research into what % of declawed cats are happy and healthy, and what % have been harmed irretrievably?

    14. Patrick says:

      Has this bill considered what will happen when people who like their furniture stop taking in cats? Will this lead to increased euthanizations? Some of us like our expensive furniture and would like to preserve it.