Republican delegates killed a bill that would have prohibited the act of declawing cats in Virginia in a 6-4 vote during a House subcommittee meeting on Jan. 18.
Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke, proposed HB 1382 to prevent the medically unnecessary mutilation of cats. The bill required anyone who performed the procedure to be fined between $500 and $2,5000 depending on the level of violation, which would have been used to fund local animal control facilities.
Cat owners may choose to have their cats declawed for several reasons, including to eliminate the possibility of painful scratches or ruined furniture. The procedure has been known to cause long-term physical and behavioral problems according to The Humane Society of the United States.
“They become fearful and they’re more likely to bite because they know they can’t defend themselves by scratching,” Gooditis said during the meeting. “Many cats become so fearful they are no longer that soft pet that wants to sit on your lap while you’re watching Netflix, they want to go hide under the couch instead.”
New York and Maryland are the only two states that have fully criminalized declawing cats while 14 cities across the U.S. have banned the procedure, according to Alley Cat Allies, an organization dedicated to the humane treatment of cats.
There are times in which declawing is the only option to treat a cat’s illness or protect the health of the owner, so the bill exempts people from being fined if the procedure is needed for medical reasons. Still, the bill and its supporters emphasize a message against declawing.
“Declawing is not simply the removal of the claw, but it’s an actual amputation,” said Laura Parkhurst, a Virginia representative for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “It is literally the equivalent to amputating your own fingers and toes at the knuckle above your nail.”
The bill gives animal control officers among law-enforcement officers and humane investigators the ability to enforce action for a violation.
Susan Seward from the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association said she believed the bill would have not only created an adverse relationship between animal control and veterinarians but also generated a negative perception of veterinarians.
“We ask that you not, in effect, criminalize veterinarians for performing a procedure in a licensed hospital in a surgical suite by a licensed doctor under general anesthesia,” she said.