NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill Wednesday to ban cat declawing statewide, calling it cruel.

“Humans can be very cruel to animals and this is just another example of the kind of behavior that we have to stop,” Rosenthal said. “We can’t mutilate them to serve our own selfish needs.”

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Under her bill, cat declawing would only be permitted for medical reasons, such as removal of a tumor.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Joan Victor has seven cats – amounting to 28 paws and a whole lot of claws. But she said she would never consider having her cats declawed.

“To declaw them, it wouldn’t enter my mind,” Victor said.

The procedure removes not just a cat’s nails, but part of the digit they are attached to.

“It’s really a mutilation of their body,” Rosenthal said. “They’re born with claws. There’s a purpose for them.”

Rosenthal said the procedure is not only “terribly painful” for the cat, but it also “might cause arthritis, it changes the way they walk, it continues to be painful and it’s also not good for them. Cats may get out of the house, run into other animals and cannot defend themselves.”

She said there was no reason to declaw cats just to protect furniture.

“Because a human wants to protect their furniture, and doing so by having their cats claws removed? That’s totally unnecessary and unacceptable,” Rosenthal said.

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The procedure would be a violation punishable up to 15 days in jail.

“The main point is to make it illegal for veterinarians or anyone else to perform this kind of operation on cats,” Rosenthal said.

There are other ways to keep cats from scratching, including trimming their nails, using scratching posts, and putting on plastic nail covers. But veterinarians such as Dr. Richard Goldstein of the Animal Medical Center said sometimes, declawing is a last resort.

“It’s a procedure we’d rather not do. It’s not necessary from a medical – from a purely medical standpoint in most cases,” Goldstein said, “but sometimes it’s necessary to enable cats to have a home.”

Goldstein feared that the legislation will mean more abandoned cats, and said while not ideal, the procedure is safe.

“It is a well-tolerated procedure that cats don’t seem to mind,” he said. “They’re normal when they wake up. They’re not in pain.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association has also said declawing is an “amputation” and should be a last resort.

“The AVMA believes the decision to perform declawing rests with the owner, in consultation with their veterinarian,” the group said in July. “What is decided is dependent on each situation; however, with multiple alternatives available, declawing should remain an option of last resort for veterinarians and pet owners.”

Rosenthal’s proposal has the backing of the Humane Society of New York and the Paw Project in California.

If the measure passes, it will be the nation’s first statewide ban on declawing cats.

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