California Law Blocks Mandatory Declawing of Pets
Landlords in California can no longer force tenants to declaw or devocalize their pets as a condition of renting a property, thanks to a new anti-cruelty law. Property owners can still ban animals from a dwelling outright; however the days of allowing only clawless cats and barkless dogs are over.
The legislation passed in September stems from objections over surgical procedures that might cut down on property damage or noise complaints, but can be painful and cause permanent damage to the animal. To declaw a cat actually means to amputate the last bone in its paws using a laser, scalpel or “guillotine clipper.” “If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle,” says the Human Society of the United States. Infections and permanent lameness are among the potential side effects.
Devocalizing a dog is an invasive surgical procedure by which the animal’s vocal cords are removed to prevent or muffle barking. Complications may include infection, respiratory problems, mucus retention and nerve damage. The procedure can also be performed on cats, although excessive meowing doesn’t seem as likely as incessant barking to cause neighborly strife in an apartment or rowhome situation.
Pet owners can still have the surgeries performed on their furry companions if they feel so compelled, but landlords can’t insist on it, nor advertise that they prefer the modified animals, or they risk facing a $1,000 fine.
A Pack of Anti-Cruelty Laws
Animal advocacy groups are applauding the new legislation. “This law provides an important protection for tenants who do not wish to subject their companion animals to painful and unnecessary surgeries,” says John Melia, an attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national group that supports anti-cruelty laws. “California consistently ranks among the top in the nation in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual ranking of states for the strength of their animal protection laws. In passing [the declawing/devocalizing law], the legislature has sent an important message that citizens have special interests in protecting the well-being of their animals that the law should uphold.”
The renter law is just one of several animal-related laws that California has passed this year:
- The fines for cockfighting, dogfighting and other types of animal fighting have been bumped up, along with other increased penalties.
- People facing animal cruelty charges will have more trouble regaining custody of their pets and will have to pay any vet bills that result from damage or neglect to the animals, if the animals are confiscated by officials.
- Dogs may no longer be used to hunt bears and bobcats.
Professional requirements for becoming a member of the Fish and Game Commission have also been increased.
The state still faces numerous budget problems and other legislative challenges, but at least its four-legged denizens can rest easier in the knowledge that their lives have been made that much safer in the last year. Let the barking and scratching begin!