California lawmakers mull statewide declaw ban


Grassroots effort to outlaw cat declaws takes hold at state level; CVMA speaks out against legislation, its affect on ownership

Sacramento, Calif.- A West Hollywood proposal to ban cat declaws has grown from a local issue to a government measure that if passed, would make California the nation's first state to deem performing the operation a crime.

At presstime, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, whose district includes West Hollywoodand much of Los Angeles County, introduced A.B. 395. Language in the billprohibits California-licensed veterinarians from "performing surgicalclaw removal procedures, declawing or flexor tendonectomy on a cat, includinga cat that is a member of a large and exotic cat species." If passed,violating the prohibition would constitute a criminal act.

But as lawmakers entertain what Dr. Dick Schumacher calls a "feel-goodissue," the executive director of the California Veterinary MedicalAssociation works to fight the ban.

"Obviously we're strongly opposed," Schumacher says. "Thedecision to declaw a cat should be made by an owner with consultation witha veterinarian, period. Government should not be a part of that."

That's also the sentiment of the American Veterinary Medical Association,which, at presstime, revised its position statement from one line to a lengthydocument. In it, the organization states: "Scientific data do indicatethat cats that have destructive clawing behavior are more likely to be euthanizedor more readily relinquished, released or abandoned, thereby contributingto the homeless cat population. Where scratching behavior is an issue asto whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable householdpet in a particular home, surgical onychectomy may be considered."

All the wrong moves

And that's a major reason why cat declawing should not be banned, saysSchumacher, adding that Koretz also introduced bills to outlaw the use ofdogs for hunting and to prevent shelters from selling animals for researchor teaching purposes.

"California's broke with a $30 billion deficit, so legislators won'tbe spending any money whatsoever," he says. "So now our representativesseem to have gravitated toward animal welfare bills. You'd think they'dhave more to worry about than veterinary medicine."

In response to the declaw measures at the state and municipal levels,the CVMA's legal counsel have drafted a paper covering policy and legalissues that would arise with such a ban.

"Municipalities cannot write laws to prohibit these procedures,"Schumacher says.

At presstime, West Hollywood City Council awaited its counsel's legalopinion regarding whether to go forth with a vote April 7. Koretz's officedid not return phone calls seeking comment as to where the declaw legislationstands.

"He's getting a lot of press out of this bill, and that's whatpoliticians like," Schumacher says. "It's just a shame it hasto be at the expense of animals."

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