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Anti-Declaw Advocates Score Major Win

First Declawing Ban in U.S. - West Hollywood, CA

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This small southern California city has set a precedent for other municipalities by being the first city in North America to ban the declawing of cats. The new law was the project of Councilmember John Duran, with the backing of veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Conrad, founder of The Paw Project, based in Santa Monica California. After the council's 5-0 vote Monday, April 7, 2003, Councilman Duran said, "We would just encourage our neighboring cities to follow our lead."

Indeed, California Assemblyman Paul Koretz (former Mayor of West Hollywood), has already followed the lead of the West Hollywood City Council. On February 14, 2003, Assemblyman Koretz introduced AB395, which would ban declawing in the state of California, including the declawing of "big cats." The full text of AB395 can be viewed online, and California residents canalso post onlinetheir comments on this bill.

Background on The Paw Project

Dr. JenniferConrad is an international wildlife veterinarian who has been working alongside other veterinarianswith the Wildlife Waystationto surgically repair the paws of numerous big cats who have suffered untold pain from previous declawing surgery. A poignant story is told of one cat, Naala, who is now free of pain, thanks to Dr. Conrad and Wildlife Waystation: "Before the paw repair surgery, Naala could only limp a few feet at a time, before stopping because of the pain. Naala is now a much happier and more active cat. There is no stopping her!"Naala's full story is viewable from this page (requires Flash Player).

The Paw Project's mission is not only to ease the pain and suffering of the estimated 1,000 big cats in the United States, through declaw repair, but also to educate the public about the unnecessary pain and suffering of declawing cats, and to work to abolish the practice of declawing, through education and legislation.

AVMA Gets Wake-Up Call

The intentions of the West Hollywood City Council, and the introduction of Bill395 by Assemblyman Koretz has gotten the attention of the AVMA. After years of taking the position that declawing is an acceptable form of controlling the natural scratching behavior of cats, that austere organization has decided to "amplify" their position, although their summary page announcing these changes speaks out of "both sides of the mouth" of this collective group:

"The committee advocated for a well-crafted, comprehensive statement addressing onychectomy, because certain animal protection groups have recently attempted to convince municipalities to ban the procedure. Since destructive clawing behavior can sometimes lead owners to euthanize their cat, the procedure can be a lifesaver." (My emphasis.)

The AVMA's old position said, "Declawing of domestic cats is justifiable when the cat cannot be trained to refrain from using its claws destructively." Their new position, which still "allows for declawing in certain situations," can be read online on their web site.

It's interesting that the new AVMA position on declawing calls for member veterinarians to educate their clients on the pros and cons of declawing, along with the risks involved with the surgery. That is exactly what I proposedover twoyears ago with the suggested "Declawing: Disclose and Wait" law for the state of California. After waiting several weeks for Assemblywoman Lynne Leach to get back to me for the dozens of researcharticles I had offered on the downside of declawing, I received a letter from her declining to introduce the bill. She had apparently contacted only the President of the California Veterinary Medicine Association, and the Director of our local (kill) animal shelter. Their consensus was the tired old lameexcuse: "More cats will die if their owners can't have them declawed." This response puzzled me, since my proposed bill did not call for the outlawing of declawing, only formandatory education so owners could make an informed decision.

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