Legislation would prohibit practice of declawing cats – Jacksonville Journal-Courier


A bill proposed in the state Legislature would have the law side your cat over your sofa’s upholstery.

House Bill 1533 — introduced by Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, and co-sponsored by six other Democratic lawmakers — would make it a fineable offense to surgically remove a cat’s claws, perform a tendonectomy, or otherwise alter a cat’s toes, claws or paws to impair their normal function.

Anyone doing so would be subject to an Illinois Department of Agriculture fine of $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second violation, and $2,500 for a third and any subsequent violations.

“It amputates pretty much up to the (first) knuckle,” Hernandez said of declawing. “Just because people don’t want to deal with a cat that might scratch the furniture. That’s not a good reason.”

Do you agree or disagree with the idea of prohibiting the declawing of cats? Send your comments to jjceditor@myjournalcourier.com.

Despite being a cat owner, the legislation wasn’t one that came to Hernandez immediately, she said.

“My cat is clawed,” she said. “I never really considered declawing my cat, ever. Then I realized I have a few friends who have had their cats declawed.”

It made her wonder — “Why would anyone do this?” — and she set out to learn more about the procedure, she said.

In her research, Hernandez came to learn the Illinois Humane Society was working on making its own case for banning declawing, she said, adding that they then worked together to craft the legislation.

According to AniMeals No-Kill Adoption Center and Animal Food Bank, 33% of cats suffer at least one behavioral problem after being declawed, with 18% showing increased biting — which Hernandez notes “can lead to more severe health problems in people than cat scratches” do — and 15% refusing to use the litter box. Some 17% of declawed cats suffer from having the surgical wounds reopen and 11% suffer lameness. Chronic pain, arthritis, nerve damage and atrophy also can result from declawing, according to AniMeals.

The bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee and Hernandez is hoping it will move forward this week.

“My colleagues have cats of their own and they understand what this means,” she said. “It also has a lot of support nationwide from individuals and organizations.” 

Not everyone is in Mittens’ corner, she acknowledged. While she has the support of some veterinarians, she’s still working to gain more, she said.

“I’ve been receiving a lot of emails — ‘Why are you focusing on this? Don’t you think there are more things that are important? Inflation. The price of eggs.’ — I understand that is important. But this is important to a lot of my constituents, too.”

Several west-central Illinois veterinarians did not return Journal-Courier calls seeking comment on Hernandez’s proposal.

Hernandez also is working to ensure the legislation would not completely prevent declawing if there were a viable reason. For example, a cat owner who develops certain medical conditions might need to have their cat declawed to prevent an accidental scratch from becoming a true threat to the owner’s health, she said.

The goal is to allow the possibility of such exceptions while keeping it from becoming a loophole that would effectively declaw the legislation, she said. 

Lisa Jackson, founder of Protecting Animal Welfare Society — PAWS — in Jacksonville, said she can see both sides of the issue.

“We don’t do it,” she said of declawing, noting that, if PAWS has a cat available for adoption that has been declawed, it’s because “they come to us that way.”

Still, “some people will call and ask if they’re already declawed,” she said.

“If getting a cat declawed means it has a stable home,” Jackson said she has a hard time arguing against it. “But it’s a horrible thing to do.” 

In a tweet Hernandez posted in mid-February, she disagreed with the idea that banning declawing might prevent an adoptable cat from finding a good home.

“Banning declawing will not change people’s minds in wanting one,” she wrote. “If it does then the owner wasn’t ready for a cat.”

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March 4, 2023 at 10:27AM

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