CVMA supports anti-ear cropping bill

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Sacramento, Calif. - As the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) takes heat for fighting West Hollywood's declaw ban, the group votes to support legislation to outlaw ear cropping, a largely cosmetic procedure.

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - As the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) takes heat for fighting West Hollywood's declaw ban, the group votes to support legislation to outlaw ear cropping, a largely cosmetic procedure.

On April 9, the CVMA Board of Governors approved backing Assembly Bill 418, which seeks to make cropping canine ears a misdemeanor crime carrying a maximum $10,000 fine. If the legislation passes, California will become the nation's first state to deem ear cropping a criminal act. Brought by Assemblyman Paul Koretz of West Hollywood, the proposed law exempts procedures performed by licensed veterinarians solely for therapeutic purposes, the legislation states.

It's the second time lawmakers have heeded calls to ban ear cropping and a first for CVMA officials since adopting the "Eight Principles of Animal Care and Use" in October. Among its charges, the CVMA doctrine calls for animals to "be cared for in a ways that minimize fear, pain, suffering and distress."

Based on the principles, CVMA's Legislative Committee recommended backing the proposed ban, but only board members could solidify that position. CVMA President Dr. Jon Klingborg endorses the group's stance. The hitch, he says, is that the bill is written up as an animal cruelty measure.

"I certainly do not think that veterinary procedures, done properly, constitute animal cruelty," he says. "Still, ultimately you have to ask if there is a benefit to this procedure. I'm sensitive that there are veterinarians in California who do ear cropping as part of their practices. But when the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) have positions strongly discouraging ear cropping, banning it entirely just seems like taking the next step."

AKC opposition

A big step for lawmakers happened April 5, when A.B. 418 was voted out of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety and referred to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations for an April 13 hearing. This occurred despite the American Kennel Club's (AKC) opposition of the measure. Using its lobbying weight, AKC launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at committee members. On its Web site, the group urges dog fanciers to attend the committee's hearings and petition veterinarians for support of owners' rights.

"It is critical the California veterinarians, as well as legislators, hear from a responsible, reasonable resource on A.B. 418 and other animal legislation in the state," AKC officials say. "Fanciers are therefore strongly encouraged to contact their own veterinarians and urge them not to support this bill. Veterinarians should be concerned about allowing the government and public opinion too much control over their practices."

No-win situation

CVMA has been willing to forego ear cropping in the past. In 2004, the association supported an amendment banning the cosmetic procedure, which was attached to the California Veterinary Medical Board's sunset review and subsequently dropped due to opposition by breeder and dog fancier groups.

Compared to more conservative veterinary medical groups, CVMA might seem progressive in its views. But that does little to shield the association from criticism in the activist-laden state.

By April 13, West Hollywood officials were expected to respond to a CVMA lawsuit to overturn the city's cat declaw ban. The lawsuit challenges the authority of a local ordinance to supercede state law and has nothing to do with the actual procedure - a distinction seemingly lost by animal rights proponents. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent out an international alert to activists last month requesting they contact Klingborg to drop the case. At presstime, he's received 30 e-mails from all over the world.

"I initially tried to answer a couple of them, but I found that people didn't want to engage in any type of discussion," he says. "This is being portrayed as CVMA fighting a ban on declawing, and that's frustrating. They're all kind of reading from the same script, not getting the crux of the issue, which is that we cannot accept that cities take it upon themselves to decide what's legal veterinary practice."

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