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WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. —The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), at presstime, was weighing options to block an attempt to ban several surgical procedures in a city that deems declawing a criminal act.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. —The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), at presstime, was weighing options to block an attempt to ban several surgical procedures in a city that deems declawing a criminal act.

In addition to its anti-declaw law, West Hollywood now seeks to ban several other veterinary procedures. Dr. Peter Weinstein (left) attempts to reason with city council members Feb. 7. "I didn't have much success," he says. Ed Buck, of Golden Retriever Rescue (above), also opposes the proposed measure.

Tail docking, ear cropping, debarking and defanging top the list of procedures West Hollywood Mayor John Duran wants blacklisted in the community. On Feb. 7, city council unanimously ordered its attorney to explore and formulate an ordinance based on the mayor-backed "ban on mutilation of animals."

The move follows a Department of Consumer Affairs opinion sought by CVMA, which calls the West Hollywood declaw ban unconstitutional based on the city's inability to supersede state law (see DVM Newsmagazine, February 2005). In a letter to city officials, CVMA states failure to rescind the 2003 ordinance forces the association to seek a court judgment to clarify status of the declaw ban. As Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker moves to file a declaratory relief action in superior court, the group also considers an appeal to the attorney general's office to render a final edict on the issue.

A ruling in favor of CVMA might rein in West Hollywood's latest attempts to regulate veterinary procedures.

"It looks like West Hollywood has upped the ante a little bit since we came down on their decision to ban declawing," CVMA President Dr. Jon Klingborg says. "Our position is if you want to try and outlaw certain surgeries, go through the state Legislature. It's not within West Hollywood's jurisdiction to ban medical procedures. Can you image what it would be like if every city had its own laws?"

City angle

Deputy to the Mayor Hernan Molina can, as long it champions the city's cause. Of the three veterinarians reported to practice in West Hollywood, none have been cited. But at least one was investigated for allegedly performing a declaw procedure.

West Hollywood just wants to protect animals, Molina says, adding: "The mayor has been thinking about this issue for a while. This is something he wants to do."

Duran could not be reached for comment, but in a statement he says, "By docking the tails of dogs or cropping their ears, animals are subjected to painful and unnecessary procedures, and somebody has to stand up to this cruelty."

Beyond council's scope

Dr. Peter Weinstein says he stands up for veterinary medicine. During last month's city council meeting, he was the only DVM on record questioning the municipality's move for change.

"I basically went in there and told them that the nature of this ordinance does not benefit anyone, especially the veterinary profession because we already have statewide regulatory agencies governing how we practice," says Weinstein, CVMA's immediate past president. "At no time did I address the clinical aspects of the procedures they were discussing. Instead, I suggested they work with their local assembly person to create legislation on the issues rather than create a local ordinance that only effects three hospitals."

Latent intimidation

More veterinarians didn't speak up due to fear of backlash, Weinstein says. Fenstermaker adds that members she contacted refused to attend the meeting. West Hollywood practitioners contacted by

DVM Newsmagazine

did not return phone calls by presstime.

"It is pretty sad that you can't practice your science in a city, and the fact that they have to be looking over their shoulders really takes the fun out of being a veterinarian in the community," Klingborg says. "It's like big brother is watching them."

In addition to Weinstein, CVMA attorney Dan Baxter spoke as well as a few unexpected supporters from the community. A handful of activists represented their side of the issue.

"City council ignored my advice," Weinstein says. "And I'm assuming that as this goes further, there will be deeper and more emotional debates on the issue."

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