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The American Kennel Club has learned that New Jersey Senate Bill 1803, which seeks to prohibit declawing procedures from being performed on cats and other animals unless deemed necessary for a therapeutic purpose by a licensed veterinarian, has been moved to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.  Please see updated committee contact information below.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) opposes this measure because it may would prohibit common and accepted animal husbandry practices from being performed on dogs, including injury-preventing dewclaw removal procedures.  New Jersey dog owners are strongly encouraged to contact the bill sponsors and the members of the Senate Economic Growth Committee to request the bill not be approved until concerns are addressed.  The committee will consider the bill on Thursday, February 16, 2023.

As introduced, S.1803 would:

(1) Make it a disorderly persons offense for any person who performs, or causes to perform, an onychectomy (declawing) or flexor tendonectomy procedure by any means on a cat or other animal, unless the procedure is deemed necessary for a therapeutic purpose by a licensed veterinarian.

(2) Require veterinarians who determine such procedures are necessary for a therapeutic purpose to file a written statement with the state Department of Health that sets forth the purpose for performing the procedure and providing the name and address of the owner, with a copy to be furnished to the animal owner.  Noncompliance would result in a disciplinary actions by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

(3) Define “therapeutic purpose” as of necessity to address the medical condition of the animal, such as an existence or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition in a claw that compromises the animal’s health.  Specifically excluded are cosmetic, aesthetic, or convenience reasons in keeping or handling the animal.

(4) Amend the state’s animal cruelty statute to include the proposed prohibitions, with fines ranging from $500 -$2,000 for violations.

Dewclaw removal is a procedure by which the dewclaws, which are essentially extra claws that are located higher up the leg than the rest of a dogs’ claws and serve little to no purpose for the majority of breeds, are removed.  Most dogs are born with dewclaws.  While a few breeds, such as the Norwegian Lundehund, use them to scale rocky cliffs, the dewclaw serves virtually no purpose for most dogs.  Active dogs are prone to getting them caught and torn, causing extreme pain and significant injury.  For these cases, it is better for them to be proactively removed shortly after birth when little or no pain is experienced, rather than to risk serious injury and infection later in an injured mature dog.

AKC strongly support laws that target irresponsible owners and those who would mistreat or harm animals.  Likewise, it is important that any legislation seeking to protect dogs not arbitrarily ban these or other procedures that can protect a dog’s safety and welfare.  Standard, safe animal husbandry practices that preserve the ability of purpose-bred dogs to excel at the functions for which they were bred should remain legal and never be construed as cruelty.

AKC believes responsible owners have a right to use their own discretion in determining whether to alter their animals.  AKC believes health care decisions are best left to responsible owners in consultation with their dog’s veterinarian.  S.1803 must be amended to explicitly protect dewclaw removal and other generally-accepted husbandry practices.

Click here for more information on dewclaw removal.

New Jersey residents are strongly encouraged to contact S.1803’s sponsors, State Senators Troy Singleton and Vin Gopal, and members of the Senate Economic Growth Committee, and urge them to address dog owners’ concerns prior to approving the bill.

State Senator Troy Singleton
(856) 234-2790,

State Senator Vin Gopal
(732) 695-3371,

Senate Economic Growth Committee:
State Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Chair
(856) 541-1251,

State Senator Troy Singleton, Vice Chair (Bill Sponsor)
State Senator Troy Singleton
(856) 234-2790,

State Senator Kristin M. Corrado
(973) 237-1360,

State Senator Joseph “Joe” Pennacchio
(973) 227-4012,

State Senator Shirley K. Turner
(609) 323-7239,

Contact AKC Government Relations at