De-Clawing Ban a Possibility in San Francisco

on July 25, 2009
Posted in News

West Hollywood, California, is the largest city in America that has a ban on declawing cats for non-therapeutic reasons. Now, San Francisco, California, may be next in line.

A prominent animal welfare advisory board, the San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, voted 5-1 at a recent hearing, in recommendation that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopt a city wide ban on declawing cats, except in medical emergencies.

Their argument was that the practice of declawing cats was improper and inhumane. Commission Chair Sally Stephens, explained that such a cruel practice is usually only done for cosmetic purposes or to stop cats from scratching their owner’s furniture.

Stephens describes the declawing procedure as a surgery in which the last bone in a cat’s paw is amputated. Even though most veterinarians do use cat-friendly anesthetics, nearly every declawed cat suffers from long continuing pain as well as emotional and behavioral changes, easily noticeable in a cat that no longer uses its litter box (scratching at the litter will cause a pain reaction that the cat will associate with the litter box) or with a normally docile cat who becomes extremely skittish virtually overnight after being declawed.

“So basically it’s kind of barbaric,” Stephens said.

The proposed San Francisco ordinance would closely resemble a ban that is already in effect in West Hollywood, California, since 2003, that states it is illegal for anyone to perform a declawing surgery on a cat within the city limits, except in situations where there is a therapeutic purpose such as a removal of any infected or injured tissue.

This, however, is not the first time that the city of San Francisco has discussed the possibility of a city wide declawing ban. In 2003, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution “urging pet guardians and veterinarians to discontinue the practice of declawing cats in the city and county of San Francisco.”

Several countries across Europe have already banned the declawing practice for many years.

Such a ban would still, obviously, allow a cat to be declawed if the declawing was deemed to be medically necessary, as in the case of cancer or severe infections, stated Stephens.

Veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Conrad of the Paw Project, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization, spoke out in favor of the ban stating that:

“De-clawing is no less cruel because it is labeled a common veterinary procedure. In fact, it is more cruel because veterinarians, of all people, should know better.”

Conrad went on to say further that: “Declawing can result in lameness and other physical problems. It can also lead to litter box avoidance and biting, behavioral problems that can result in pets being abandoned at animal shelters.”

However, such a ban also received opposition during the hearing, with representatives from the California Veterinary Medical Association. The CAVM also tried to sue in an attempt to overturn the declawing ban in West Hollywood in 2005. They were unsuccessful. The Court of Appeals in June 2007, upheld a ruling of 2-1 in favor of the declawing ordinance. Such an ordinance is the only one in existence throughout the entire USA. Legal arguments were filed by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office in support of the ordinance in West Hollywood.

The CVMA’s argument is that the decision to declaw a cat should be left to the sole discretion of the cat’s owner, along with sound advice from their veterinarian, rather than the ban being forced by the city, giving the owner no choice in the matter.

Stephens is hoping that the declawing ban would be in full practice by the end of this year.

However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed in a bill that would make it illegal for any city or county in California, to pass a law that would prevent any veterinarian from performing any duty that is allowed under California’s licensing standards.

This new bill simply means that cities and counties within the State of California will no longer be allowed to pass any law that goes against the State’s licensing standards, but this bill would only be in effect for any legislation that is passed after 1 January, 2010.

This bill was sponsored by the CVMA, which has previously stated that the association is against any city banning veterinarian practices, especially those that are held up by veterinarians, veterinary associations and the state board.

The catch is that if the declawing ban is passed in San Francisco before the new bill comes into effect, the ban will stand.

Photo Credit: kevindooley

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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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