Landlords Cannot Require Declawing, Devocalization of Pets

Rhode Island’s General Assembly has passed legislation that prohibits property owners from requiring devocalization and declawing of dogs and cars as a condition of occupancy.

Devocalization or debarking is a surgical procedure that involves opening an animal (usually a dog) at the throat or through the mouth to cut the vocal cords to reduce the sound of barking. 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.

Declawing has been termed an unnecessary mutilation in the United Kingdom and is illegal in many nations, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Brazil and Australia. Devocalization is also illegal in much of the world, as well as in the California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Majority Leader Ruggerio said the bills were introduced to end this animal abuse in Rhode Island. The legislation would prohibit any person or corporation that occupies, owns, manages or provides services in connection with any real property from requiring any tenant or occupant to declaw or devocalize any animal allowed on the premises.

Violators could face fines of up to $1,000, be barred from owning or possessing any animals or required to take humane education, pet ownership or dog training classes.

The law was sent to the governor for final approval. If enacted, the law would take immediate effect.

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