Friedman Votes For Legislation Prohibiting Cat Declawing in Massachusetts 

Would become third state in the nation to outlaw the inhumane procedure 

(BOSTON–1/18/2024) Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation that would prohibit declawing, tendonectomy, and similar procedures from being performed on cats in Massachusetts, except in cases of medical necessity to address a condition that jeopardizes a cat’s health—as determined by a licensed veterinarian.  

Declawing a cat involves amputating the first bone on each toe, and tendonectomies involve cutting a tendon in each toe that controls the extension of claws.  

Cats who have had their claws removed are more likely to experience paw pain, back pain, infection, tissue death, and could be unable to use their legs properly. They are also more likely to incur nerve damage and bone spurs as a result of claw regrowth, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The procedure is commonly performed for human convenience and to prevent damage to furniture, rather than medical necessity. 

“I am very pleased with the Senate’s leadership and unanimous endorsement of this bill,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This is a commonsense proposal that protects our furry friends in the Commonwealth and I hope to see this bill become law this session.” 

S.2552—An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing—would only permit licensed veterinarians to declaw a cat if they determine it is medically necessary. Veterinarians who violate the conditions for performing a declawing may be subject to disciplinary action by their licensure board. 

Under this legislation, the civil penalty for violating this prohibition is $1,000 for the first offense, $1,500 for a second offense, and $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense. If passed into law, Massachusetts would join New York and Maryland as the third state to have enacted statewide bans on declawing. Additionally, more than a dozen U.S. cities have banned the practice and dozens of countries ban it or consider it illegal. 

The bill has been praised by animal rights and animal welfare advocates around the Commonwealth.  

“We thank the Senate for advancing this bill and again demonstrating their commitment to animal protection,” said Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell. “Our animal hospital, Angell Animal Medical Center, has not performed declawing surgery for decades because it is not in the interest of the animal, often involves painful complications, and can create lifelong behavior problems. We are grateful that this unnecessary amputation will be prohibited in the state.” 

“This legislation would protect countless Massachusetts cats from a painful and unnecessary surgical procedure,” said Stephanie Harris, Senior Legislative Affairs Manager for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “New York, Maryland, and many major municipalities already ban declawing — and we hope Massachusetts will be next.” 

“This legislation marks a big victory towards protecting cats from unnecessary suffering and upholds Massachusetts’ position as a leader in compassionate animal treatment. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Mark Montigny and Senate President Spilka for their unwavering commitment to animal protection,” said Preyel Patel, Massachusetts State Director for The Humane Society of the United States

“Declawing of cats, except when medically required, is an unnecessary surgery that causes behavioral and physical harm,” said Dr. Erin Doyle, DVM, ARL Senior Vice President of Animal Welfare and Veterinary Services at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. “The surgery is an amputation of part of the toe and can result in infection, lameness, and chronic pain.  Scratching is a normal cat behavior, and there are many easy and safe options to prevent cats from scratching in a destructive way. Banning this cruel practice will prevent animals in Massachusetts from needless pain and suffering.” 

“With this vote, Massachusetts is one step closer to becoming one of the most humane states in the union,” said Jennifer Conrad, DVM, of the Paw Project, a nonprofit entirely dedicated to ending the cruel practice of declawing. “Senator Mark Montigny deeply cares about what’s best for everyone in Massachusetts. He knows that this bill is good for cats because they won’t have to get their toes cut off. It’s good for people because they won’t have declawed cats who bite and/or don’t use the litter box. It’s good for veterinarians because they won’t have to declaw anymore and break their oath of doing no harm, and it’s good for the community because taxpayer dollars won’t be needed to pay for declawed cats who end up in shelters where they languish due to their behavior problems that were caused by declawing,”  

Having been passed by the Senate, the legislation now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.