Opponents of the practice of removing claws from cats are marshaling forces to get as many cities and counties in California to pass bans on the practice in advance of a new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2010.
In just the past month, three cities, including San Francisco, have approved bans on cat declawing and more are expected to follow including Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
Why the rush? If the bans are in place before January 1, 2010, they stay.
The California Veterinary Medical Association was a sponsor of Senate Bill 762, signed into law July 2, which gives the state authority over medical scope-of-practice issues and prevents cities and counties from passing ordinances banning medical procedures. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it saying whether to declaw a cat is between a cat owner and their veterinarian.
In Sonoma County, no bans are proposed but Angela Bonnert of the Sonoma Humane Society says their agency “would support a ban on performing declaw surgery on cats. It is an inhumane procedure that is very painful and can cause long-term problems. We do not advocate the declawing of cat, and we do not perform cat declaw surgery in our hospital.”
Declawing means the first knuckle of the cat’s paw is completely removed and along with it the nail foundation. Most cats are declawed in the front only but others also have their rear claws removed.
“Cats have a natural tendency to scratch and most cat owners are accepting of this. If scratching becomes destructive, the goal is to redirect the scratching onto acceptable objects such as a scratching post. Declawing is not the answer,” says Bonnert.
But Dr. Nancy Kay, a veterinarian in Rohnert Park supports efforts to protect the client/veterinarian relationship and keep government out of the decision making.”I can tell you that many of the doctors feel as I do- it should always be a treatment of last resort. Would we rather perform a declaw procedure (with ample and adequate pain medication) than euthanasia because the cat is destroying expensive home furnishings? You betcha,” says Dr. Kay.
Amy Cooper, the director of the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control says at this time, the county is not proposing legislation to ban cat declawing, nor is it advocating for its passage. “It is an owner/vet decision. I think declawing happens less than in the past, in part because both pet owners and veterinarians are more attuned to the physical impact on the cat and also on the cats ability to function normally,” says Cooper.
Placing declawed cats takes special care say Bonnert and Cooper. The effort is to adopt to families who will keep the cats as indoor only. “It is very dangerous for a cat who has been declawed to be left outside. They cannot defend themselves or climb to get out of harm’s way,” says Bonnert.
Cooper says she personally has never declawed her cats. “They occasionally do scratch something – a sweater, a bedspread, etc. – but it is, I think, to be expected when you own a living, breathing animal.”