Giving Credit When Credit is Due
Banning Cat Declawing is Good Politics and Good Policy
The final legislative session of a four-year term is always interesting, especially one conducted after a global pandemic, a contentious presidential election, and redistricting. The upcoming election is on everyone's minds as controversial bills are debated, passed, and sometimes vetoed and enacted through an override. To me, the most interesting thing was the fact that I, a Republican, was hoping that a bill introduced by Democrats would pass and become law this year.
If you follow me on social media, it’s no surprise that I own a cat. Her name is Harlow and I adopted her from the Anne Arundel County SPCA back in November. I highly recommend adopting a cat if you are able to adequately care for one because they are an absolute delight to have. I often share pictures of her online and with my friends who also own cats. While getting dinner with them one night during Session, one mentioned that a bill was introduced that would ban cat declawing.
For those unfamiliar with the practice, cat declawing is described by the Humane Society as “the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle…It is an unnecessary surgery that provides no medical benefit to the cat.”
The negative impact of cat declawing includes pain in the paw, tissue necrosis, infection, nerve damage, regrowth of improperly removed claws, and back pain. Declawed cats are also left defenseless in the wild in the event that they accidentally get out of the house. The Paw Project, an organization dedicated to ending declawing, points out that declawed cats are more likely to be surrendered to shelters due to issues with biting and litter box avoidance.
To end this unnecessary cruelty, a bill was introduced during the 2022 legislative session. Senate Bill 67 and House Bill 22 were introduced by Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) and Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery). According to the fiscal note:
“This bill prohibits a person from performing a declawing procedure on a cat unless the person is a veterinary practitioner (licensed and registered veterinarian), and the procedure
is necessary for a therapeutic purpose. The bill establishes sanctions specific to veterinarians and veterinary practitioners that violate the prohibition and a civil fine applicable to any person who violates the prohibition.”
The bill received near-unanimous support in its respective committees and despite bizarre opposition and debate during Second Reading in the Senate, passed both chambers with overwhelming majorities and bipartisan support. Both bills were signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan on April 21, 2022, and go into effect on October 1, 2022.
I don't often say positive things about legislation introduced by some of the more Progressive members of the Maryland General Assembly, but this bill was a good idea and will go to great lengths to protect cats and kittens from needless pain and suffering for the sake of protecting furniture. I wish it had more bipartisan support, but at the end of the day it passed and Governor Hogan signed it into law, making Maryland the second state to ban the practice, which is all that should matter. While we are the second state, we won't be the last, because similar bills are being considered in other states, including Arizona, California, and Delaware.
A quote I thought about while writing this article is “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.” Long before I got involved with politics, I was interested in helping animals. I still have that passion today and was thrilled to see so many animal welfare bills passed and signed into law this session. Not only is supporting these types of bills both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do, but it sells politically. Voters love pictures of elected officials smiling with animals, and they’ll also love hearing about how you voted to protect them from cruelty and abuse while in Annapolis. Keep that in mind going into the Midterms and Session 2023.
P.S. Before anyone comes at me for speaking favorably about a bill introduced by Democrat members of the Maryland General Assembly, I was phone banking for Republicans while writing it.
Melissa is awesome. She can do better than (and deserves better than) the Duckpin
Declaw Law? The conservative position has always been "No New Laws, More Personal Responsibility". Even though the intent here is well meant, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Restraint laws are Democrat values. Republicans should be advocating alternatives like Public Awareness campaigns and voluntary social pressure through faith, community, and guidance organizations. I also have delightful cats, and agree with the intent. However, we cannot allow our personal feelings to soften sound principles of limited government. Find another way.