Cats in Madison would have their claws protected by city law if a potential new ordinance is adopted.
Ald. Lindsay Lemmer, 3rd District, is proposing to ban cat declawing in the city except when the procedure is medically necessary or considered therapeutic for the cat. The measure was introduced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting and now faces review from several committees.
“Cat declawing is inhumane. It’s unnecessary, and I think it’s increasingly outdated and archaic, really,” Lemmer said. “Declawing is actually multiple amputations, comparable to removing a person’s fingertips at the first knuckle.”
Under the proposed ordinance, anyone who violates the rule could be fined up to $2,000 and cited by Public Health Madison and Dane County. Lemmer said authorities don’t expect many problems with compliance since most local veterinarians she contacted have already stopped declawing cats.
Lemmer said an informal survey she conducted of local veterinarian clinics and staff found most were either comfortable with the ban or fully supported it.
Once a common procedure, many veterinary professionals now oppose or advise against declawing. The American Association of Feline Practitioners “strongly opposes” the practice as an elective procedure. The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages elective declawing but leaves it up to veterinarians to decide what’s best for the cat.
“The times have really changed,” Lemmer said.
Declawing can lead to several complications for cats, including acute and chronic pain, infection, nerve trauma, behavioral problems and lameness, according to the feline practitioner association. Alternatives to declawing include providing more scratching posts, regularly trimming claws, temporary nail caps and using pheromone sprays to relieve anxiety.
Lemmer said declawing can cause litterbox avoidance and increased biting or nipping. She said the procedure is wrong because, for cats, “claws are their first defense.”
New York became the first state in the U.S. to prohibit elective declawing of cats in 2019. Some cities in the U.S. have started to adopt their own bans on the procedure, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and St. Louis.
Lemmer said Madison — and the U.S. as a whole — is falling behind other cities and countries on the issue and said a citywide ban is overdue.
“We’re not on the forefront,” Lemmer said. “We need to follow this lead and do the right thing.”