Black cats
Cats are often declawed to stop them scratching furniture iStock

A bill approved by an assembly committee in New Jersey could make it the first state in the US to classify the declawing of cats as an animal-cruelty offence. If the bill passes, the violation could be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 (£800) and six months in prison.

Declawing is a controversial practice that detractors say is barbaric and inhumane. Though the procedure is illegal in a number of countries worldwide, including the UK and Australia, New Jersey would be the first state in America to enact any laws forbidding it.

The procedure is typically carried out to prevent cats from shredding furniture or other household property, or because they have not yet learned how to play properly.

Speaking to, a Monmouth County SPCA medical director called the practice an "invasive surgery" and said that cats undergoing the procedure were put at risk of "pain and lameness".

A local vet who has been declawing cats for 20 years told the site that the government should not be regulating declawing: "We feel this is between a licensed vet and the client." He added that the procedure had become much less invasive with new pain medicine.

During the hearing, sponsoring assemblyman Tory Singleton called declawing "barbaric" and that "more often than not [it] is done for the sake of convenience rather than necessity ... Many countries worldwide acknowledge the inhumane nature of declawing, which causes extreme pain to cats. It's time for New Jersey to join them."