Senate says landlords can't require pet declawing, removal of vocal cords

Senate says landlords can't require pet declawing, removal of vocal cords

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday unanimously voted to prohibit landlords from requiring tenants to remove their cats' claws or their dogs' vocal cords. The measure will now go to the House of Representatives.

The legislation, which was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, a Democrat from Senate District 4 in North Providence and Providence, still allows homeowners to say no to pet owners as renters.

Last month, when Ruggerio proposed making "devocalization" and "declawing" requirements illegal, he labeled the procedures “inhumane and potentially dangerous to pets."

“Devocalization,” or “debarking,” is a surgical procedure that involves opening an animal at the throat or through the mouth to cut the vocal cords to reduce the sound of barking, according to Ruggerio. The scarring resulting from the procedure can cause the animal to have an obstructed airway.

“Declawing” is the full amputation of the last knuckle of each of a cat’s toes, often involving cutting through the animal’s ligaments, nerves, skin and blood vessels. The amputation may leave the cats not only defenseless, but in constant pain, sometime prompting unwanted behaviors such as biting, according to Ruggerio.

Ruggerio wanted Rhode Island lawmakers to follow the other states’ lead on the law.

“These acts are inhumane for any animal to go through, unless there is a real medical necessity,” he said in a statement last month. “Imagine if your ability to talk or defend yourself was suddenly taken away from you. We must put an end to this.”

If the law is passed by the House, violators could face fines of as much as $1,000, be barred from owning or possessing any animals, or be required to take humane education, pet ownership or dog training classes.

- Ethan Shorey