Gov. Larry Hogan signed the declawing ban into law Thursday along with a measure that prohibits leaving dogs outside in "extreme weather conditions."
person holding cat's paw
Credit: Kyryl Gorlov / Getty

Maryland has become the second U.S. state to ban cat declawing after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday signed a bill prohibiting the practice unless a cat meets specific exceptions.

Declawing cats used to be a common offering from veterinarians, but it's lost popularity in recent years. Now, cat care professionals warn cat owners against the painful procedure, saying it's much better to give cats healthy scratching options rather than robbing them of their claws. The procedure involves amputating the toe's farthest-most bone to ensure the claw won't regrow. The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages the procedure, known as an onychectomy.

The procedure can also cause behavior issues and takes away cats' primary self-defense tool. Plus, onychectomy might not even stop them from scratching

"When people wrap their head around it, the idea that we would mutilate to protect a furniture item is abhorrent to people," Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (D), sponsor of the bill in the Maryland House of Delegates, told The Washington Post last month.

The Maryland bill bans declawing unless it would ease a medical condition that's negatively affecting the cat's health. Declawing a cat to make him easier to handle or for convenience will be outlawed. 

Anyone "willfully" violating the law would risk a $1,000 fine and suspension or revocation of their veterinary license when the law goes into effect Oct. 1. 

"Delegates and senators heard from the people of Maryland and made a powerful decision that we will no longer allow cats in our state to endure this cruel, crippling procedure," Alley Cat Allies President Becky Robinson told WMAR. "Amputating the last joints from cats' toes is excruciating, causing a lifetime of pain and unintended consequences that often lead to cats being relinquished to shelters."

New York state banned declawing in 2019, joining American cities of Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Austin, Texas, also banned declawing last year. 

Have a scratchy kitty? There are other ways to save your curtains, including nail caps, offering your cat plenty of opportunities for non-destructive scratching, and regular nail trims.

Governor Also Approves Law Regulating Dogs Left Outside

Also on Thursday, Hogan also signed a bill that restricts when dogs can be left outside during extremely hot and cold days.

On days when the exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the measure stipulates that dogs cannot be left unattended outside for more than 30 minutes without access to cooling shelter or suitable shade. The 30-minute limit applies as well to colder days—when temps dip below 32 degrees or when the National Weather Service issues a winter or cold weather warning. On the chillier days, dogs need access to a shelter that will allow them to stay dry and maintain a healthy body temperature.

"We get calls every day from people in our community who are very concerned about animals left outside in extreme weather. This bill really provides some guidelines and boundaries for animal control and police departments when an animal can stay outside and when it cannot," Maryland SPCA Community Care and Advocacy Director Katie Flory told WBAL.

A similar law went into effect this year in Texas that in many cases bars dog owners from chaining their dogs outside.

Anyone found violating the Maryland law—which also goes into affect on Oct. 1—will face a fine of no more than $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 90 days.