Is Declawing Cats Illegal?

Published Sep. 5, 2019

Declawing a cat used to be considered an effective way to deter destructive scratching in cats. However, times are changing, and a movement to ban the declawing of cats has emerged.

This movement to make the practice of declawing cats illegal has grown in recent years, and the result has been an increase in anti-declawing legislation in many levels of government.

Why Is There a Push to Make Declawing Illegal?

Research has shown that declawing cats can lead to an increase in behavioral problems as well as cause short-term and long-term pain for cats. In terms of cat behavior, scratching is a normal, healthy behavior for cats.

Many people do not understand that declawing is an amputation of the last bone of each of a cat’s toes—cutting off each bone at the knuckle. Using the human body as an example, declawing is analogous to cutting off the last bone in each of your toes, and then walking on them for the rest of your life. It is worth noting that, in humans, amputations are only done for medical reasons or to save a person's life.

This has led many cat owners and veterinarians that might have previously seen declawing as a viable option to reconsider their position on the practice.

International Bans on Declawing Cats

Making the declawing procedure illegal is not just a hot topic in the US. In many countries, the practice of declawing cats for nonmedical reasons has been illegal under their animal cruelty laws.

In 2011, Israel amended the “Law Against Cruelty to Animals” to include a ban on the practice of declawing cats. Australia, New Zealand and Brazil also have restrictions in place to prevent declawing as well. 

A ban is also in place in the United Kingdom—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006.

Under the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, the following countries have restricted or banned the declawing of cats:

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Cyprus

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark (Does not apply to Greenland or Faroe Islands)

  • Finland

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Lithuania

  • Luxembourg

  • Norway

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Serbia

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

  • Turkey

  • Ukraine

In Canada, there is no federal law banning declawing, but seven of Canada’s 10 provinces have made it illegal, including:

  • Nova Scotia

  • British Columbia

  • Prince Edward Island

  • Newfoundland and Labrador

  • New Brunswick

  • Manitoba

  • Alberta

US Bans on Declawing Cats

Within the US, the anti-declawing movement has primarily been undertaken on the local level with many cities passing their own bans on the practice.

City Declawing Bans

West Hollywood, California, was the first city in America to ban declawing way back in 2003. Many other California cities soon adopted the ban, including Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Culver City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Monica.

California also has a ban in place that prohibits the declawing of wild and exotic cats.

In 2017, the Denver City Council passed a bill that bans declawing.

State Declawing Bans

However, recently there have been major strides in state-level legislation.

Below are a few of the US states that have passed, are passing or are working to pass anti-declaw legislation.

New York

New York State made history in 2019 by becoming the first US state to pass legislation that completely bans the declawing of cats.

Despite a tense debate between feline advocates, experts and veterinarians, Bill No. A01303B passed the New York State Assembly to become a law.

On July 22, 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the legislation, stating, “Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops. By banning this archaic practice, we will ensure that animals are no longer subjected to these inhumane and unnecessary procedures."

New Jersey

New Jersey currently has its own bill that would ban the declawing of cats that is making its way through the legislation process.

The bill (A3899) has been approved by the Assembly, but still needs to make its way through the Senate. There has not been a hearing scheduled as of yet for the approval of the bill.


Massachusetts has also been looking into legally banning the practice of declawing as well.

Bill S.169 is currently being reviewed within the Massachusetts Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.

West Virginia

In January of 2019, House Bill 2119 was introduced to the West Virginia House of Representatives.

There have been no recent updates on its status.


Senator Lauren Book recently introduced Senate Bill 48 to the Florida Senate on August 2, 2019.

As of August 16, the bill has been referred to the Agriculture Committee, Committee on Innovation, Industry and Technology, and the Committee on Rules.

Supporting legislators are hoping for it to be passed and enacted within 2020.

Featured Image:

Liz Bales, VMD


Liz Bales, VMD


Dr. Liz Bales is a graduate of Middlebury College and The University of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine. She focuses on unique...

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