Ruggerio bill will prohibit property owners from requiring tenants to debark, declaw pets
RI STATE HOUSE – Calling the surgical procedures inhumane and potentially dangerous to pets, Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio is urging passage of legislation to prohibit property owners from requiring “devocalization” and “declawing” of dogs and cats 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, sometime prompting unwanted behaviors such as biting.
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 states of Massachusetts and New Jersey.
As of last September, California law prohibits landlords from requiring tenants to declaw or debark their pets to cut down on noise or property damage. California is the first state to enact such legislation.
Majority Leader Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) wants Rhode Island to similarly “end this animal abuse.” Legislation introduced this session (2013-S0177) 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.
“These acts are inhumane for any animal to go through, unless there is a real medical necessity. Imagine if your ability to talk or defend yourself was suddenly taken away from you. We must put an end to this,” said Senator Ruggerio.
If enacted, 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.
“Individuals with rental properties have a right to a ‘no pets’ policy, but they should not be allowed to require renters to force pets to undergo potentially dangerous and totally unnecessary procedures,” said Majority Leader Ruggerio. “There are other ways to protect property without putting pets at risk, forcing them to undergo harmful, dangerous and expensive procedures.”
The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture. It is co-sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown), Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).