Kitten

Cat declawing has long been banned in Europe and the UK, but in the US the horrific practice continued unabated...until now.

New Jersey could soon become the very first state in the US to outlaw the practice of declawing cats.

The Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee cleared a bill on Monday that would add onychectomy — the medical term for removing a feline's claws — to the list of criminal animal cruelty offenses, according to NJ.com.

Veterinarians who are caught declawing a cat or anyone who requests the procedure would ultimately face a fine of up to $1,000 or at least six months behind bars.

Violators could also be slapped with a civil penalty of $500 to $2,000 as well.

"We are very happy and absolutely agree wholeheartedly with this bill," Brian Bradshaw, Shelter Manager at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter in Bridgewater, told the Bridgewater Patch. "We see a lot of side effects of declawing," he added.

"For humans not to respect the integrity of the animal and the animal's body is criminal," Linda Rosenthal, an assembly sponsor for a similar bill in New York, said during a press conference in May. "However, it's still allowed, it's an option, and that's why we aim to make it illegal," she added.

While most supported the legislation, there were some critics who felt that a ban on declawing cats could lead to an increase in euthanizations.

"We are not pro-declaw, but we want to prevent them from being relinquished," explained Middletown veterinarian Michael Yurkus, who is a member of the New Jersey Veterinary Association.

"We feel this is between a licensed vet and the client, and should not be regulated by the government," he added.

Assemblyman Parker Space, who voted against the bill, agreed — citing his own family's experiences with their pet cat, who caused $600 worth of damage to his home.

"It was either getting declawed or going back to the shelter, where it would more than likely be put down," he said.

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