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Declawing: San Francisco outlaws feline declaw surgeries

By Gary Bogue
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 8:05 am in Cats, Declawing.

Billboard photo declawing

I wondered if this would pass.That’s good news, especially for cats that don’t want their “fingers” cut off!

I thought the information below might interest you. Just received this press release from the Paw Project, one of the leading sponsors of anti-declawing measures in the state. /Gary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 on Tuesday to make non-therapeutic declawing of cats illegal within the County of San Francisco.  Based on recommendations made by the city’s Animal Control and Welfare Commission and City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee, today’s measure, passed on its first reading, makes San Francisco the third city in California to ban the procedure.

“We are doing the right thing,” stated Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who introduced the proposed measure and has publicly called the practice of declawing “animal cruelty.”

The issue of declawing has recently become a priority to several California cities because of a recently passed California State law (SB 762), which will make it unlawful, after the end of the year, for California cities to pass similar laws. On Oct. 27, Santa Monica voted 6-1 in favor of an anti-declawing measure that is likely to be approved at a second reading on November 10. This week, the Public Safety Committee of the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to recommend an ordinance banning declaw surgeries.  Berkeley and Beverly Hills are scheduled to vote on similar ordinances within the week.

“We applaud these cities for acting with compassion for the animals.  We hope that these measures bring the harmful effects of declawing to the attention of the public and make an impact on anyone considering declawing a cat in other California cities,” said Jennifer Conrad, DVM and founder of the Paw Project, an animal advocacy organization that has been the leading sponsor of anti-declawing measures in California. As a result of the Paw Project’s efforts, California now bans declawing of captive wild and exotic cats and the USDA forbids its nationwide licensees from declawing exotic and wild animals. The Paw Project also sponsored the West Hollywood declaw ban in 2003.

Often performed without post-operative pain medication using a small instrument resembling a cigar cutter, the procedure of declawing is the amputation of the last bone in each of a cat’s toes. The procedure can be painful and often results in long-term physical problems such as lameness and infection, as well as behavioral problems including biting and litter box avoidance. These behaviors often lead pets to be relinquished to shelters.

Routinely performed in the U.S. to prevent cats from scratching furniture, declawing surgery is not performed in much of the world. It is illegal the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, and several other countries. In countries where it is not illegal, such as Australia, professional veterinary associations consider it unethical. Numerous animal protection organizations support ordinances to ban declawing, including the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, League of Humane Voters, United Animal Nations, Born Free USA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

After the City of West Hollywood passed its anti-declaw ordinance in 2003, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) filed a lawsuit contending that West Hollywood did not have the legal right to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine. The California Courts ultimately ruled in favor of West Hollywood, declaring that the city had the right to prohibit acts that it considers animal cruelty. To circumvent the Court’s decision, the CVMA sponsored SB 762, which would prevent declaw bans passed after Dec. 3, by making it unlawful for a city or county to “prohibit a healing arts licensee from engaging in any act or performing any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that licensee.”

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“SB762 has left us with a limited window, and as a result, cities considering the declaw ban have made the issue a top priority before their time runs out,” said Dr. Conrad.

The CVMA remains the most vocal opponent of declawing bans, and its representatives have been present at nearly every hearing on the matter to argue that prohibiting declaw surgeries would result in more cats being relinquished to shelters and that scratches from cats impose health risks on immunocompromised individuals, arguments that are contradicted by experts and scientific studies.

Infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists do not recommend declawing to protect the health of HIV-positive and other immunocompromised individuals. Such individuals are at an increased risk of infection from cat bites since declawed cats, robbed of their primary defense, are more likely to bite. On the issue of the effect of cat scratches on immunocompromised people, Dr. Harry Lampiris, MD, Chief of Infection Control and Acting Chief of Infectious Diseases at San Francisco VA Medical Center explained, “Skin infections from many sources occur in patients without cats, and rarely does an AIDS patient present with a serious cat scratch. If a cat scratch becomes infected, the infection is easily treated.” Dr. Lampiris is in favor of HIV/AIDS patients keeping their cats, and stated, “There is no medical justification whatsoever to declaw a cat living with an HIV/AIDS patient.”

Published studies have reported that declawed cats are nearly twice as likely to be relinquished to shelters due to post-operative behavioral problems such as biting and litterbox aversion. A majority of operators of animal rescue organizations and shelters speaking in support of declaw bans have testified that declawed cats in their care are harder to place in adoptive homes because of these behavioral issues.

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“This is a real victory for the cats. We are just scratching the surface, and we have a lot more to accomplish.  We hope these measures encourage other U.S. cities to do the right thing for the animals,” said Conrad. “Cats rely on their claws for their physiological health, emotional well being and psychological security; declawing them amounts to animal cruelty.”

Los Angeles will cast its final vote on its proposed declaw ban on Nov. 6, Santa Monica’s final hearing takes place on Nov.10, and Beverly Hills will hold its first City Council hearing on the matter on Nov.5. Berkeley is also considering the matter; hearing date to be announced. For more information about the public hearings, and to learn about alternatives to declawing, please visit http://www.pawproject.org or call Jennifer Conrad, DVM, at 310-795-6215.

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3 Responses to “Declawing: San Francisco outlaws feline declaw surgeries”

  1. Barbara Costa RVT Says:

    It’s about time a declaw ban was passed. Amputation performed on a healthy cat is just wrong. My rescue forbids it. These poor cats are defenseless with their paws so they use their teeth. How can anyone be so selfish as to amputate their cats fingers to save their furniture? Cats who have scratching posts and towers use those not the human’s furniture.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Re: declawing — I agree, Barbara. And, especially disturbing are people who declaw a cat — and then allow it to roam outside.

    I’ll never forget a Ragdoll that I had adopted from the pound years back. I saw him several days before he was available for adoption. It was my intent to get that kitten. I showed up at 6:00am the day he was to be released. (Next customer wasn’t behind me until 9:50am. No matter. I won!)

    As I brought the cage papers to the clerk, I noticed that he was a *declawed*, 4 mos. old. I couldn’t believe it: a kitten that someone had put through amputation. Add to that the fact that he was a defenseless stray.

    Tomas would go through the motions of “scratching” the Black’s Law Dictionary that remained on the floor next to my desk for the next fifteen years; or, he’d use it as a prop to lean on as he slept while I completed assignments.

    Somehow he had managed to mangle that book to smithereens.

    To this day, I can’t get over the fact that he was declawed … Thanks to Berkeley city council for making it illegal to declaw cats. :)

  3. Cherie Howell Says:

    It’s great to see people freely expressing their opinion.Thanks for your insights.

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