Nova Scotia and Denver ban declawing
FREDERICTON, Nova Scotia; DENVER, Colorado––Christmas came early in 2017 for cats in Nova Scotia province, Canada, and in Denver, Colorado.
Both jurisdictions recently banned elective and non-therapeutic declawing surgery, but through starkly different legal approaches.
Nova Scotia vets make declawing “unethical”
The Nova Scotia declawing ban was adopted, explained Canadian Press correspondent Kevin Bissett from Fredericton, the provincial capital, when “The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association decided to amend its code of ethics to make the practice of elective and non-therapeutic declawing ethically unacceptable,” effective on March 15, 2018, following a three-month education period.
The Nova Scotia declawing ban will thereby be in effect one year after the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association in March 2017 strengthened a 2003 recommendation against declawing domestic cats, “saying the practice causes unnecessary and avoidable pain,” Bissett wrote.
“It’s a great day. I’m so proud of the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association,” retired veterinarian Hugh Chisholm told Bissett, in his capacity as volunteer Atlantic Canada director for the Paw Project.
Founded in 2002 by veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, of Santa Monica, California, the Paw Project also provided the major impetus for the Denver declawing ban, unanimously approved by the city council on November 13, 2017.
Colorado VMA fought Denver ban
But the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association opposed the Denver declawing ban, just as veterinary medical associations throughout the U.S. have fought against declawing bans whenever and wherever they have been proposed, even though most have been sought by veterinarians.
“The driver behind Denver’s ban was veterinarian Aubrey Lavizzo, the local leader of the Paw Project,” recounted Denver Post reporter Jon Murray.
Jennifer Conrad also personally testified at a Denver city council hearing a week before the ban was approved, Murray added.
Conrad appeared in part to rebut allegations that if declawing is prohibited, more people might surrender cats to shelters in response to property damage, such as clawing furniture and woodwork.
In California, explained Conrad, “We found that if we looked at the numbers of cats who were relinquished five years before — versus five years after — the ban went into existence, we found there was a decrease in the number of cats relinquished,” including a 43% decrease in Los Angeles.
“Awkward & disheartening feeling”
The Denver city council may have been most moved, however, by testimony from local veterinary technician Kirsten Butler.
“Having run anesthesia on declaw procedures,” Butler told the council, “I can tell you it is an awkward and disheartening feeling to keep something alive while it is mutilated in front of you.”
Recalled Murray, “She described postoperative care that was ‘equally as awkward,’ as cats shook off blood-soaked bandages while they endured pain and disorientation after ‘having awakened missing a third of the digits they went to sleep with.”
Declawing a cat involves amputating each digit of the cat’s paws at the bone equivalent to the first knuckle of the human hand: five amputations per limb, ten amputations altogether if only the front paws are declawed, 20 if declawing is performed on all four claws.
Once common, but opposed now by almost all major humane organizations worldwide, declawing is a profitable procedure for those veterinarians who still do it, and is still defended by most veterinary medical associations.
At peak popularity in the U.S., circa 1985, declawing was performed at about 10% of the rate of sterilization surgery on cats, and about 7% of the U.S. pet cat population had been declawed. By 2000, however, declawing was no longer among the ten most frequently performed operations on cats.
Banned abroad & in eight California cities
Declawing cats has already been banned in the United Kingdom since 2006, and is strongly discouraged within the European Union, Australia, and Japan.
Declawing has also been banned by eight California cities, beginning with West Hollywood, the first city in which the Paw Project sought a ban, in 2003.
Failing to overturn the West Hollywood ordinance in court, the California Veterinary Medical Association in 2009 prevailed upon the state legislature to pass a bill preventing cities and counties from banning any veterinary or medical procedure after January 1, 2010 that remained legal at the state level.
The cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Burbank, Beverly Hills, and Culver City, however, all banned declawing within 60 days of the deadline taking effect.
So far no U.S. state has banned declawing, but a declawing ban introduced in 2016 by New Jersey assemblyman Troy Singleton cleared the state assembly in January 2017 by a vote of 43-10 with 12 abstentions. The bill died, however, in the New Jersey senate economic growth committee.
California in 2012 prohibited landlords from requiring tenants to declaw cats as a condition of occupancy. California landlords retain the options of either banning cats entirely, or collecting deposits in case tenants’ cats do damage.
Rhode Island adopted similar legislation in 2013.