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Council Plans to Consider Law Banning Cat Declawing

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 05, 2009 - 08:39:00 AM

The controversy surrounding cat de-clawing is about to hit close to home for Berkeley, when its City Council votes on whether to approve an ordinance banning the procedure on Tuesday, Nov. 10. 

San Francisco banned declawing Nov. 3, and cities across California are rushing to impose the ban before the Jan 1, 2010, deadline, when cities will no longer be able to enact local ordinances banning declawing, due to a recent amendment in the state’s Business and Professions Code. 

Councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Jesse Arreguin are recommending the ban to the City Council, after the Citizens’ Humane Commission passed a resolution Oct. 21 recommending that council ban all non-therapeutic surgeries for animals except sterilization. 

Although the commission’s action exceeded its agenda at that time, and should have been brought back at a future date, Councilmembers Wengraf and Arreguín explained that it would not be in time for the January deadline and asked the council to vote on the ordinance next week. 

Although declawing has been described as cruel and painful by many animal rights activists and organizations, the California Veterinary Medical Association, which represents more than 6,100 veterinary professionals statewide, has come out against the bans. 

The CMVA feels that the decision to declaw a cat should remain with the owner, in consultation with a veterinarian on a case-by-case basis.  

“Sometimes the declawing of cats may become necessary for behavioral reasons and is used as a ‘last resort’ after all other remedies have been considered,” CMVA President Mark Nunez said in a letter to the Santa Monica City Council, which was considering a ban in September. “There are certainly alternatives to declawing a cat and veterinarians are obligated and do discuss risks, as well as, alternatives to the procedure. Cat declawing is not cruel or inhumane, and as a matter of fact our members primarily perform this procedure as a last resort—to save an animal’s life.” 

Nunez could not be reached for comment Wednesday. 

A statement from the CMVA said that “declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner.” 

Humane Commissioner Jill Posener told the Planet that she considered declawing “barbaric.” 

“It’s painful and traumatic and it’s done only to benefit human beings,” she said. “Vets need a way to say no to the surgery. A ban will help them do that.” 

Declawing is currently illegal in 25 nations, including the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland. In the United States, an estimated 25 percent of cats are declawed every year. 

“We think about declawing as just removing the nails from cats—it’s actually a very complex procedure,” Arregu´n said. “You are not just removing the nail, you are removing a portion of the finger. It’s analogous to cutting off the last joint of each finger. That’s very painful.”