Maryland lawmaker says bill to make declawing cats illegal is ‘purrfect’

Maryland State Sen. Cheryl Kagan is working to pass a bill that would make it illegal for veterinarians to declaw cats, barring a “therapeutic” purpose for the procedure.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Kagan, a Democrat from Montgomery County, told colleagues the bill is needed because the process of removing a cat’s claws is “not just taking off and doing a little manicure and then trimming their nails, it’s actually removing the first knuckle of their paws.”



When the title of the bill was first read before Kagan spoke Wednesday, Senate President Bill Ferguson said that “we have gotten some emails on this one, let me tell you.”

Kagan said removing claws leaves cats unable to defend themselves and can result in other undesirable behaviors, like biting and litter box avoidance, because pawing litter can become “uncomfortable” for the cat.

Asked by Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat representing Frederick and Washington counties, if the process of using lasers to remove a cat’s claws would be less harmful, Kagan said that “lasering, while it sounds high-tech and may sound nicer for the cat, I assure you, it still results in limping, lifelong pain, problems using a litter box and (the cat) defending itself.”

Sen. J.B. Jennings, a Republican who represents Harford and Baltimore counties, asked Kagan what options a cat owner would have when a cat’s nail-sharpening habit ends up “shredding the furniture.”

Kagan suggested that instead of declawing cats, pet owners could trim their cats nails regularly, or even apply plastic caps that cover the cat’s nails. And, she said, owners could train their cats or offer alternatives like scratching posts and games.

The mention of training led Jennings to ask: “Have you ever really had an adult cat to try to train?”

Jennings continued: “I mean, cats are cats, man. They’re tough. They’re not a dog. They have their own mind. They’ll do their own thing.”

Laughing, Kagan responded, “the easiest option, senator, is to trim their nails regularly.”

Kagan’s bill would allow exceptions for owners and veterinarians, when it’s deemed medically necessary to remove claws.

“Let’s say there’s a tumor in the paw. Of course,” she said, “We want our veterinarians to protect our cats.”

The bill would give the state’s veterinary licensing board “flexibility,” according to Kagan, and would not result in the automatic loss of a license to a vet who performs the procedure.

Jennings asked Ferguson to delay a vote on the bill, saying he wanted to do more research, and that he’d been getting a slew of emails on the topic.

“I’ve gotten both sides,” Jennings said. “I had one vet who contacted me who was totally for this bill,” but he said he’d heard from others who oppose the bill and told Jennings they only use the procedure “in certain circumstances.”

Ferguson agreed to delay further action on the bill by one day.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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