Illinois veterinary group opposes Kane County lawmaker’s bill to ban unneeded cat declawing

Aurora state Rep. Barbara Hernandez sponsored the bill

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association has announced its opposition to a bill pending before the House that would make it illegal to declaw cats in the state unless it’s medically necessary.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, would amend the state’s Humane Care for Animals Act and would prohibit veterinarians to “perform surgical claw removal, declawing or a tendonectomy on any cat or otherwise alter a cat’s toes, claws or paws to prevent or impair the normal function of the cat’s toes, claws or paws, except for a therapeutic purpose.”

The bill would allow licensed veterinarians to perform a tendonectomy or surgical claw removal when deemed medically necessary for the animal.

“It’s deeply concerning that politicians propose outlawing medical procedures without consulting the medical professionals who have the expertise and insights necessary to ensure animal health and well-being is protected,” ISVMA President Joanne Carlson said in a statement. “While we appreciate good intentions, this bill will jeopardize the lives of some cats and compromise veterinarians’ ability to uphold their medical oath to protect and save animals’ lives.”

“To be clear, Illinois veterinarians perform feline onychectomies infrequently and any suggestions that this is a common practice are untrue.”

—  ISVMA President Joanne Carlson

ISVMA, which represents more than 1,800 veterinarians across the state, contends the bill is too narrow and puts cats at risk.

“To be clear, Illinois veterinarians perform feline onychectomies infrequently and any suggestions that this is a common practice are untrue,” Carlson said. “When it is done, as a last resort, it is to protect the health and well-being of the cat. When the procedure is recommended, veterinarians employ the utmost care while engaging in state-of-the-art procedures and employing the most effective pain management treatment.”

Carlson said there is no evidence that cats who have this procedure experience any long-term difficulties.

“The truth is recovery time is swift, and advanced laser procedures and anesthesia often allow the cat to resume normal activities the same day,” Carlson said. “Modern declawing is no more painful or complicated than one might expect from a spay or neuter procedure.

“Rep. Hernandez’ bill begs the question, ‘When well-being is at stake, is it better for the cat to be declawed, or to be removed from a loving home and essentially sentenced to die?’” Carlson said. “We maintain that choice should be made between the pet’s family and a licensed veterinarian.”

In an email, Hernandez said she met with ISVMA about three times to discuss the bill.

“I never stated that I do not trust veterinarians or I’m challenging their profession,” she said in the email. “This is not about them, this is about the cat’s well being and if they truly cared for their cat they would not declaw them, or if they cannot have a cat who has their claws, they should send them to a loving home that can have a cat. There are other animals that are more family-friendly. I believe we are all aware cats can be unpredictable. I know my cat can be.”

Hernandez also responded to the group’s statement about a cat’s well being.

“By declawing the cat and letting them be an outdoor cat, that is definitely sentencing them to die by other bigger animals since they will not be able to defend themselves,” she said.

In talking previously about the bill, Hernandez noted she owns a cat.

“If you declaw a cat, it can cause a lot of health issues,” she said previously. ”It could be a safety concern for them as well. A lot of people decide to declaw their cat because they are tired of them damaging their furniture or cutting their nails is a pain. However, once they declaw the cat, it’s very damaging because it pretty much amputates a cat, which once again, can be very painful for them. It’s unnecessary and if your cat is known to go into the wild and roam around, it won’t be able to defend itself from other animals.”

Hernandez introduced the proposal in the Illinois House on Jan. 27 and it has picked up seven co-sponsors. If passed, Illinois would become the third state to approve such a ban, according to the nonprofit group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The bill is still pending in the House.

Those who violate the ban would face a $500 fine for the first violation, $1,000 fine for a second violation and $2,500 fine for a third or subsequent violation.

New York banned cat declawing in 2019 and Maryland did so last year. In addition, several cities across the country ban cat declawing, including Madison, Wisconsin, according to PETA.