Story published on March 6, 2024

The Virginia anti-declawing bill  passed in the House on March 5, 2024 and is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed.
The Governor of Virginia signed the bill and it will become a law on July 1, 2024.
Which means a cat owner will be able to just get a note from their doctor saying they have a health issue and give it to their declawing veterinarian who will legally be able to perform this inhumane, cruel, and mutilating amputation procedure on a cat. Yep, it will be that easy.
Declawing veterinarians will be able to keep profiting from this inhumane amputation procedure and cat owners who are lazy and don’t want to use the simple, humane alternatives, will be able to keep getting their cats declawed.
The declawing bill was corrupted by an amendment offered by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association ( that would allow cats to be declawed to protect an “owner’s health.”  You can read more about this in our recent investigative story. The Virginia anti-declawing bill
Also, here’s a video of the short testimony by the Richmond SPCA and Virginia Federation of Humane Societies in the hearing where their spokeswoman said they support this bad bill. Hearing testimony
(In 2023 the declawing bill was laid on the table by legislators who received a lot of donation money from the VVMA. Here’s our story.
All the big human health organizations do not recommend declawing a cat for any human health reason. There are always humane alternatives to declawing.
Declawed cats often develop behavioral issues like biting, aggression, and litter box issues and a bite is much more dangerous to a human than a scratch. Section #11 in our Facts vs Myths.
The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association wanted this amendment in the bill so that declawing will stay legal in VA.
Four animal welfare organizations, who say they are against declawing, the Richmond SPCA, the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, Best Friends Animal Society, and PETA, supported this corrupted bill with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Associations “owner’s health” amendment in it.
Here’s our 3 minute video showing their testimony. Animal Organizations side with the VVMA.
The Paw Project, HSUS, and Alley Cat Allies do not support the owner’s health amendment in the bill, along with many Virginia animal welfare organizations listed below.
The Richmond SPCA and Virginia Federation of Humane Societies’ representative, Tabitha Treloar who is also the communication’s director for the Richmond SPCA, testified in many of the bill’s hearings in support of this bill with the owner’s health amendment in it.
In fact, in the Jan. 31, 2024 hearing, Ms Treloar said that declawing is invasive and dangerous. 
In the hearing to legislators in the House on the Feb. 21, 2024 Tabitha Treloar said, “I’m with Richmond SPCA and also speaking on behalf of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies.   We have more than 113 shelters around the Commonwealth who are members of the Federation and we thank Delegate Martinez for bringing this bill.
We have really appreciated the work of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association to come with a compromise and we do hope that you will support it.”
We reached out to the Richmond SPCA and Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and asked them quite a few questions for our story.
Ms Treloar replied with this note on Feb. 28, 2024.

“What I’d ask you to take into account is that it is not a matter of passing a perfect bill versus this bill. It’s a choice between this compromise and no bill – and should it be defeated, creating a toxic environment in which Virginia legislators will be unwilling to touch the declaw issue for years to come.

Currently Virginia law gives cats zero protections from declaw procedures. If we can pass HB 1354, the larger message is that declawing is banned in the Commonwealth. Any veterinarian who chooses to perform the procedure will do so knowing they may have to defend that decision in front of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, as does any physician who supplies a patient documentation that’s not legitimate.
While we respect your difference of opinion, and right to oppose the bill should you choose, we have thoughtfully talked with stakeholders here in Virginia to come to the decision to support the VVMA’s compromise that would allow HB 1354 to move out of committee and have a chance to become law.

We asked her who the stakeholders are and never received an answer.

 Ms Treloar said this in the Feb. 21, 2024 hearing to legislators, “We have really appreciated the work of the VVMA to come with a compromise and we do hope you will support it.”

(The compromised was the owner’s health amendment.)

We asked Ms Treloar this,  Why wouldn’t your organization work with all the other animal welfare organizations to keep the bill the way it was and that was to completely ban declawing without the owner’s health amendment? The NY and MD bills passed in those states because the legislators were educated about how declawing is never necessary, how it mutilates a cat’s paws and ruins their lives and often causes them to become aggressive and bite and not use the litter box and how a bite is much more dangerous to a person with a health issue than a scratch, and how there are always humane alternatives like trimming the cat’s nails for any reason an owner requests for a declaw.

Here’s the response we received from Ms Treloar on March 1, 2024.

“My statement of appreciation for the VVMA lobbyist’s work on HB 1354 is because without it, the bill would not have gotten a motion or the votes to move past the January 31 hearing in the house agriculture subcommittee. Keeping a bill alive and passing the House narrowly, 52-Y, 44-N, was dependent on agreeing to a compromise. 

If you are content with the status quo, then please do continue. Refusal to compromise on the bill does compromise animal wellbeing and preserve veterinarians’ ability to declaw for any – or no – reason at all.  We are seeking progress, however incrementally, and adding protections where there are none.”

According to animal welfare sources in Virginia, the VFHS sent an email out to their members on Feb. 28, 2024 with the details about the owner’s health amendment and said that HB 1354 is a priority bill.  Many of their member organizations responded by saying that this watered down bill with the owner’s health amendment in it should not be supported.

The VFHS responded by saying the concern about the “owner’s health” amendment led to the amendment requiring documentation. The VFHS also said that they talked to many other stakeholders in Virginia who understand their position and they will continue their support for the bill.  The VFHS highly encouraged others to also support the bill.

We asked Ms Treloar if the VFHS took a vote with their 113 members to see if they support keeping declawing legal with this “owner’s health” amendment in the bill.

She didn’t answer the question.

A few of the VFHS members told us they never received a note asking them about their opinion of this bill or if they support the human health amendment.


Also, in March 2024 many of our supporters reached out to the spokesperson for the Richmond SPCA and VFHS, Tabitha Treolar, and she sent them this response.

“I appreciate your sharing your concerns about HB 1354. While we also would have liked to see this pass without the owner’s health amendment, a compromise with the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association was the only option that would allow any bill at all to emerge from the Agriculture Committee that had control over what went to the house floor for a vote.

Even with the VVMA’s support, passage was very narrow in both the House and the Senate. It prohibits any declawing procedure except for therapeutic purpose, and the Senate did make improvements to the therapeutic purpose definition. The members of the Governor’s own party still voted overwhelmingly against this legislation and cited reasons like “limiting consumer choice” because under state code, pets are viewed as property. If Gov. Youngkin is inclined to veto the bill, it unfortunately will not be for the reasons that you’ve cited.

Unless HB 1354 is signed into law, cat owners in Virginia will continue to be able to have their cats declawed for any reason at all. Like you, we would prefer that no cats were declawed, but we must accept what progress the legislative process can deliver, and that is often gradual in the Commonwealth.

After the bill passes, if there’s evidence of veterinarians abusing the exception for an owner’s health – or of human physicians writing phony documentation – that will give advocates solid ground to return to the General Assembly and amend the language. Enforcement has been placed under Virginia’s Board of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Health Professions has thorough and transparent disciplinary proceedings for licensed professions.



Tabitha F. Treloar

Director of Communications Richmond SPCA 


We reached out to the Senators who voted no on this bill and asked them why they voted that way. Here are the two responses we received.

From Senator Bill DeSteph’s Chief of Staff.

“I got to speak briefly with Senator DeSteph about this earlier today.  It was his understanding, based on the testimony he heard regarding the bill, that if a cat scratched a child and the parent wanted to prevent that in the future, the only remedy besides declawing would be putting the cat down.  Senator DeSteph did not want that to happen, so he voted against the bill, to protect the life of the cat.  I hope I am explaining (based on the way he explained it to me) this properly!

Jill Eyler, Chief of Staff

Office of Senator Bill DeSteph 

20th Senate District of Virginia.”
We sent her a reply and asked her what hearing was it or who told him that the only remedy to prevent a child from being scratched is a declaw? We never received a reply.
We also received a reply from Senator Emily Jordan.

“I voted against HB 1354 because I believe it is the owner’s choice.  I am an animal lover and am the proud owner of a Bernese Mountain dog and an 18-year-old German Shepherd.  I love and cherish my animals, and treat mine like family.  I appreciate your questions and your advocacy.  Thank you and have a wonderful weekend.

Warmest Regards,

Senator Emily M. Jordan

17th District, Virginia Senate”

We reached out to many of the animal welfare organizations in VA, who are members of the VFHS, and asked them if they want declawing completely banned or do they think there should be an amendment in it to allow for the owner’s health.

We wanted to put together a long list of animal welfare organizations in VA who want declawing completely banned.

Here are some of their responses. None of these animal welfare organizations, who are members of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, supported the owner’s health amendment.

Cat Adoption and Rescue Efforts. Henrico, VA

Our organization, Cat Adoption and Rescue Efforts, supports banning declawing in Virginia completely.  There is a bill in the VA state legislature right now to ban declawing completely but it was watered down with amendments that make the bill completely ineffective in protecting cats from being declawed. We have written to the bill’s sponsor and to our individual legislators asking them to support the original language in the bill that banned non-therapeutic declawing with no exceptions.  It is in our adoption contract that an adopter cannot declaw the cat they adopt; it is something we discuss with each adopter before they can adopt from us.  We do not recommend declawing to protect human health for the reasons that are stated in your facts-versus-myths link.

Cat Action Team. Charlottesville, VA.

Cat Action Team completely supports banning declawing and would like to be added to your list of organizations who don’t condone declawing for any reason. As for people with HIV, they should use the humane options, or look for a cat at a shelter where a cat has already been declawed.

Norfolk SPCA. Norfolk, VA

The Norfolk SPCA is fully supportive of a complete ban on declawing cats for any and all reasons. We refuse to perform the surgery and we tell people its inhumane when they ask us. As far as people with HIV we recommend claw caps and regular nail trims to prevent scratching that breaks skin.

SPCA of Northern Virginia. Arlington, VA

The SPCA of Northern Virginia supports 100 percent ban on declawing cats.

The only valid exception I can think of would be if the cat has an extreme deformity in which a claw or toe would need to be removed for medical reasons that benefit the cat. While unusual, some polydactyl cats with a large number of extra toes or claws that grow sideways could present a problem for the cat.

We don’t support declawing, for example, where a human has a compromised immune system. That is because declawed cats are often biters – they nip and bite people because they feel defenseless without their claws. A cat bite is a much greater health risk to a human with a compromised immune system than a scratch. Cat bites are usually deeper than scratches.

I don’t really like cat caps like soft paws – cats don’t like them and cats can pull them off and swallow them which is dangerous to the cat. Clipping claws is a good idea if the cat will tolerate this without too much stress.

I have several friends with compromised immune systems – due to HIV or cancer – who have cats with no issues. It’s always a good idea though for humans to be informed.

Scott County Humane Society.

We are against declawing a cat for any reason. It is inhumane, selfish, and can completely destroy your cat’s personality and confidence.

Gloucester-Mathews Humane Society. Gloucester, VA

Yes, we are against declawing completely at our facility. In our adoption contract, it does state that the cat/kitten they are adopting will not be declawed, and it also states on our adoption application near where they sign that they understand it is against our facility policies to have a cat declawed. Our demographic of people we have in our city, staff has noticed is against declawing. But for those that do not know about declawing, or have not been educated about it, our adoption counselors have been counseled on how to have these conversations. We educate them about what is declawing and what it involves (the surgery), the effects after, as well as ways to prevent scratching. We even have a handout we give in our adoption packet.

Garfield’s Rescue, Inc. Kilmarnock, VA

Garfield’s Rescue, Inc. (GRI) completely supports banning declawing for all felines.
Also Garfield’s Rescue does not recommend declawing a feline for any human health reason.
We have included in the GRI Adoption Contract a clause that says the adopter agrees to never declaw the feline and understands that this process is very inhumane.

Billy the Kidden Rescue. Virginia Beach, VA

We are for completely banning declawing catsOur rescue has a strict no declawing policy and it is included in our Adoption Contract the adopter agrees to never have the kitten/cat declawed.

Feral Affairs Network. Hampton, VA

We unequivocally support a complete ban on declawing cats.

Jeepin for Paws is against declawing even for an owners health reason. There are other humane ways to prevent being scratched such as regular nail trimming.


Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Arlington, VA

There are humane options such as management and training – there is no need to declaw a cat.

Below is our official statement on declawing, which can be found here:

“Cats adopted from AWLA may not be declawed. This policy is reflected in the adoption application and contract and will be discussed during the application review. AWLA will deny an application to adopt if there is reasonable grounds to believe that an applicant will declaw a cat, which includes the applicant’s refusal to commit to not declawing. An adopter’s failure to comply with AWLA’s declawing policy will be recorded in the personal history database and may be grounds for denying future adoptions unless approved by the Director of Operations or their designee.”

Hanover Community Cats rescue. Hanover County, VA.

We do not declaw or support the surgery in any fashion. We will always share alternative options to our fans and adopters.

Justice for Paws. Lorton, VA

For the Cats’ Sake. Flint Hill, VA



We reached out to Best Friends Animal Society asking them why they supported HB 1354 with the owner’s health amendment and here’s their response on March 4, 2024.  “It has long been the position of Best Friends to oppose the practice of cat declawing, making exceptions only in cases where it is deemed medically appropriate for the cat (such as tumors, infection or other chronic health issues determined by a licensed veterinarian).

Best Friends Animal Society was asked to stand with our allied partners in support of Delegate Martinez’s proposed bill (HB1354) on banning the declawing of cats for non-therapeutic reasons.

This request was made prior to the bill being amended in the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Companion Animals.

While we disagree with the amended language, which could allow the practice of declawing to continue in some cases, we understand that this proposed legislation marks a solid step forward toward ending this practice. We are committed to continuing our work on this issue and will continue to support issues that save shelter animals’ lives.

We applaud Delegate Martinez for introducing this bill and commend the work of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies for advancing this issue in this General Assembly Session. “


We sent a note to PETA asking them why they are supporting this bill with the human health amendment in it and here’s their response on Feb. 26, 2024.
“PETA supports House Bill 1354. More information can be found here. While the bill may have exemptions for some special circumstances, if passed, it would spare many cats the pain and suffering of having their paws mutilated solely for human convenience. Thank you for your compassion and action for animals.”
PETA’s declawing section. “Declawed cats might become morose, reclusive, withdrawn, irritable, aggressive, and unpredictable. Many people think that declawed cats are safer around babies, but, in fact, the lack of claws (a cat’s first line of defense) makes many cats feel so insecure that they tend to bite more often as a means of self-protection.”
PETA’s 2013, 8 reasons to never declaw a cat section.
PETA’s Declawing facts.
PETA’s story on where declawing is illegal.  “Unless it’s medically necessary, declawing should never be done.”
Please contact Governor Glenn Youngkin ASAP and ask him to NOT sign the Virginia declawing bill, HB 1354, and to send it back to the sponsor, Delegate Marty Martinez and recommend that he take the owner’s health amendment OUT of this bill.
Let him know that the bill is bad and dangerous for cats, physicians, and cat owners. The big human health organizations like the CDC, NIH, National Hemophilia Foundation, and many more, do NOT recommended declawing a cat for any human health reason.
Phone: 804-786-2211
Here’s the link to send the governor a note-  Virginia governor
Richmond SPCA – or 804-521-1300
VA Federation of Humane Societies-
Best Friends –
PETA- 757-622-7382
Here’s a scenario if this bill becomes a law:
Mrs. Smith: “Doctor, I would like you to declaw my kitten.”
Virginia “Declawing Veterinarian: I can’t, Mrs. Smith, unless you have a medical reason. “
Mrs. Smith: “I don’t have a medical reason. It’s for my couches.”
Virginia Declawing Veterinarian: “Are you understanding me? I can’t UNLESS you have a medical reason.”
Mrs. Smith:” I have skin allergies and can’t risk getting scratched.”
Virginia Declawing Veterinarian: “Sure. You just have to get a note. I recommend you go online and get a tele-health doctor to sign a note and have it emailed over. “
Mrs. Smith: “Okay. That will take about 5 minutes so I will set up the declaw appointment right now. “
Virginia Declawing Veterinarian: “Excellent. Thanks, Richmond SPCA, VFHS, PETA, and Best Friends and all the rest of you suckers who supported HB1354. You fell for it and I am going to continue cutting off kitten toes to pay for my Lexus.”
Always take the high road, be polite, and educate!
Also, please reach out to the Bissell Pet Foundation and ask them to please ask the Richmond SPCA to write the Governor of VA and ask him to send the bill back to the sponsor and recommend taking the owner’s health amendment OUT of this corrupted bill.
Cathy Bissell is against declawing and will not give grants/donations to animal rescues/organizations that support declawing cats.
Since the Richmond SPCA appreciated the work of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association to bring this owner’s health amendment that would allow declawing for an owner’s health AND supported this corrupted bill, we should let Cathy Bissell know that one of her partner organizations is helping to keep this barbaric cat cruelty legal in Virginia.
Let us know if you get a reply!

Here’s the link to our story about the bill.