Delaware animal rights groups lobby for bill to ban cat declawing

DOVER, Del. – Animal rights groups and advocacy organizations across the State of Delaware are rallying and pushing for the passage of a bill that would outlaw the declawing of cats in the First State.

Supporters of the legislation, House Bill 333, are hoping to drum up enough support to have the bill passed before lawmakers end their session on Thursday, June 30.

“It’s something that should’ve been done a long time ago,” explained Jane Pierantozzi, founder and executive director of Faithful Friends Animal Society in Delaware. “Too many cats are being harmed and end up being surrendered or put outside without their claws to defend themselves because they develop behavior problems. It’s time to take a stand for cats, we would never declaw a dog.”

The declawing process is a procedure defined as a onychectomy, dactylectomy, phalangectomy, tendonectomy, or any other procedure that removes a portion of the paw or digit of a cat in order to remove a claw or cuts or modifies the tendon of the limb, paw , or digit of a cat to prohibit the extension of a claw.

Animal rights groups such as Faithful Friends Animal Society strongly and broadly condemn the procedure as both harmful and traumatic for cats.

“I myself got my first two cats declawed, not knowing, I thought it just took out the nails, not that that’s humane, but I’ve regretted it because it actually takes off the first finger, like the knuckles,” Pierantozzi said. “We see that a lot of cats end up having severe anxiety, having pain, even though they say the procedure is painless, they have pain a lot of times afterwards, phantom pain, and a lot of cats can stop using the litterbox and then they’re surrendered or put outside.”

As the movement against the practice grew across the country, with over 40 states now banning the procedure altogether, mounting pressure was put on lawmakers to act, specifically State Rep. Andrea Bennett, the primary sponsor of the legislation. Several more lawmakers would join the bill, co-sponsoring, including State Rep. Paul Baumbach who condemned the practice and called for his colleagues to pass this legislation.

“Declawing is actually the kindest term, amputation is another term which is accurate as is de-knuckling, and what it does is it takes the last portion of every finger on both the front and back paws of cats and it is truly barbaric and there are far better ways to address cat behavior than this drastic surgery,” explained Rep. Baumbach. “There are many veterinarians who have sworn this off, the chain VCA does not do this, and there is a group called the paws project, veterinarian run, and they’ve been advocating for years to put an end to this practice. So, there are several states that have done this in recent years and that’s what House Bill 333 would do.”

The bill has already passed the House and now awaits consideration in the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. If the legislation clears commission, it will then head to the full Senate for a vote.

State Rep. Baumbach said he hopes his Senate colleagues clear the bill and pass it, and that education can go along way when it comes to caring for our four legged loved ones.

“I think the important thing is that this requires education,” Rep. Baumbach stressed. “I’m not in my twenties, when I was in my twenties, my wife and I had a cat and we had it declawed as that’s what you did back then, but we’ve learned since then that it’s absolutely not needed and it’s actually harmful for the cat. Our current cat has all of it’s digits, there’s no amputations, they have all their knuckles, and indeed this is really the best thing for that cat and the best thing for people.”

The bill excludes declawing a cat for therapeutic purposes; However, a violation will be considered a civil offense subject to a civil fine up to $1,000. The legislation also specifies that if a veterinarian or a veterinarian technician is found to have declawed a cat, it will be considered “cruel to animals” and they will be subject to professional disciplinary action.

Supporters hope the bill will clear the Senate before session wraps up on Thursday night. If it does, it will then head to Governor John Carney’s desk to be signed into law.

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