Claws Are Coming Out In The Battle Over Cat Declawing

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You’d think that veterinarians and animal rights advocates would be on the same page when it came to legislation that would ‘protect’ animals from unnecessary medical procedures, but that’s not exactly the case in four states where vets are clashing with activists.

Related: New Jersey May Be The First State To Prohibit Cat Declawing

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that vets should only surgically remove a cat’s claws if other options (like behavioral modification) have not worked, or if the cat’s scratching could pose risk to its immunocompromised human. They claim that they oppose declawing unless it will serve the cat to stay in its home as opposed to being surrendered.

But legislation in New York, New Jersey, West Virginia and Rhode Island is putting vet groups against activists who believe that there should be total outlaw of cat declawing, unless the rare instance of medical necessity should pop up. The vet groups say that if the procedure actually was illegal, it would make many owners either surrender their cats, or not bring them into their homes at all, leaving many at risk of homelessness or euthanasia. They believe this is a bigger issue than more cats being declawed, even if only to prevent scratching on furniture in homes.

Michael San Filippo is a spokesman for the AVMA and says that about 70% of cats who go to shelters end up euthanized. This law could make that number much greater.

That said, not all vets are against the legislation. Dr. Jennifer Conrad founded a group called PawProject.org and says that declawing is more a money-maker for vets than it is a procedure done to keep cats in their homes. She says that some vets make over $1,000 an hour to declaw, and she personally knows vets who have called it their main money-maker.

Related: Study: Declawing Cats Has Long-Term Impact on Behavior

Dr. Carlo Siracusa is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and says that onychectomy, or declawing, actually can cause so much pain in the animal that they can even be more of a risk for harming (biting) people than they were without the surgery. He says that the European Union outlawed declawing in 1986 and hasn’t seen an alarming rise in the number of cats surrendered or euthanized. He believes that education for cat owners and veterinarians could help combat this as well.