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Laws On Paws: New Ordinance Prohibits Declawing Cats In Austin

A very pretty kitty lounges.
Julia Reihs
Animal rights advocates say declawing cats is cruel and generally done only to protect furniture.

Austin has banned declawing cats.

The City Council's unanimous vote Thursday creates a penalty for the practice, which animal rights advocates argue is cruel and generally done only for aesthetic reasons like protecting furniture.

The city's Animal Advisory Commission has been looking into a ban since late 2017 and formally recommended one a year later.

The practice has come under scrutiny over the last decade. Opponents argue it's inhumane because it involves a partial or total amputation of the small bone that anchors a claw to a cat's paw. The procedure can cause lasting pain for a cat, along with other adverse side effects, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Austin Pets Alive praised the council's decision, calling the procedure "painful and unnecessary."

New York state has banned the practice, as have a handful of cities, including Los Angeles in 2009.

In a letter supporting the ban, Brenda Barnette, the manager of L.A.'s Department of Animal Services, said she's seen no increase in cats dropped off at the city's animal shelters as a result of the ban – a common (albeit anecdotal) refrain from Los Angelenos who opposed the ban.

Five years after the ban went into effect, Barnette said, L.A.'s animal shelters actually saw a 43% decrease in the number of cats being dropped off.

"We ... strongly believe that a ban on declawing saves the lives of cats," Barnette said in the letter to the City Council.

Austin's ordinance provides an exemption if declawing is medically necessary to address an "illness, infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition that compromises the animal’s health."

The city says people who violate the ban face a ticket for a class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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