California Law: Landlords Can't Require Cat Declawing
In the wake of last week’s "just the facts" post about cat declawing, this news about anti-declawing action in California will probably have you jumping for joy. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1229 into law. It prohibits landlords from requiring tenants to declaw their cats as conditions of occupancy.
Here’s a little background: In California, it can be difficult to find pet-friendly apartments. When pet-friendly apartments are available, many of them come with a requirement that cats be declawed in order to reduce damage to the property. Declawing isn’t the only, or even the best, way to reduce scratching damage, but apparently some California landlords don't know that.
Early this summer, California Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) introduced a bill to make this practice illegal. That bill, SB 1229, was co-sponsored by the Paw Project and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. The California Veterinary Medical Association, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and the California Apartment Association, as well as other animal welfare groups, also supported the measure, which passed the state Senate with a unanimous vote.
Of course, there was opposition to the measure, too. A group called the Animal Council told legislators they should oppose the bill because “other tenants and outside neighbors hear dogs' noise and may be greatly disturbed.”
What was that they said? All I heard was “waah, waah, waah.”
SB 1229 went to the state Assembly in August, where it passed 57-17.
On Sept. 26, Gov. Brown signed the bill and several other pro-animal measures into law.
Now, landlords can no longer reject tenants who refuse to have declawing or devocalization surgery -- the latter is sometimes called "debarking" of dogs -- done on their pets, and they’re not allowed to advertise in a way that discourages renters whose pets have claws or vocal cords. Landlords who violate the restriction will face fines of as much as $1,000 for each pet. (Read the full text of the bill here.)
This new law won't prohibit landlords from having a “no pets” policy. I have heard concerns that SB 1229 might give landlords an excuse to prohibit pets, thereby making it even harder for pet-loving Californians to find places to live. Unfortunately, I could see that happening. I can only hope that the publicity around the bill has raised awareness about just how serious declawing and devocalization really are and the potential consequences of the procedures -- not just for the pets and their caretakers, but for landlords, too.