Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed a bill into law this week making Maryland the second U.S. state to ban the declawing of cats.
“Our beloved kitties, who cannot advocate for themselves, need us to protect them,” Democratic state Sen. Cheryl Kagan said in a statement from The Paw Project, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the declawing of cats.
The new law, which goes into effect in October, prohibits veterinarians from performing the surgical procedure, unless it’s “necessary for a therapeutic purpose.” Those who violate it could face fines of up to $1,000.
Declawing a cat is a major surgery that involves amputating the last bone of each toe, similar to amputating each first knuckle on a person’s hand. On top of the initial recovery pain and risk of infection, it can lead to lifelong pain as it alters the way that the cat walks.
Some opponents of declawing bans have raised concerns they could lead to more cats being given up by people who don’t want the cats to scratch furniture, or who have concerns about the cats scratching people. However, research suggests that that declawing can lead to worse behavioral issues. For instance, cats without claws can be more likely to bite if they feel threatened. Declawing can also lead to litter box problems, like urinating around the house, because cat litter can irritate declawed paws.
The first U.S. state to ban declawing was New York, which did so in 2019. It’s also illegal in numerous other countries ― including much of Europe ― some Canadian provinces, and at the municipal level in some U.S. cities, including Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others.