Declaw bill breaks down in California legislature


CVMA sets sights on repealing West Hollywood's well-publicized ordinance

Sacramento, Calif.-Lawmakers aborted plans to make California the nation's first state to outlaw cat declaws early last month largely due to lobbying efforts headed by the state's veterinary profession.

Officials with the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA),Banfield Pet Hospitals, Cat Fancier's Association and private practitionersas well as the California Consumer ProtectionAssociation testified April 29 before the California Assembly's Businessand Profession Committee. The group alleged A.B. 395, introduced by AssemblymanPaul Koretz, would unconstitutionally deem DVM-performed declaw surgeriescriminal acts. Despite Koretz's seat on the committee and his concessionamending the bill to omit housecats but include only large, exotic cats,the measure was defeated.

"We felt this bill was inappropriate in its entirety," CVMAExecutive Director Dr. Dick Schumacher says. "The decision to declawany cat should be made by the owner with consultation with a veterinarian,period.

"It's interesting that it took such a large lobbying effort to preventthis bill from being heard. To keep it out of committee when the assemblymanbehind the bill sits on that committee, that's really something."

Out of West Hollywood

Although the legislation was buried, it stems from a city ordinance thatin early March, made West Hollywood the nation's first community to deemdeclawing cats a crime. Ordinance backers claim cat declaws are unnecessary,cruel procedures.

Koretz, whose district includes West Hollywood, was representing hisconstituents with the state bill he proposed. If passed, it would have prohibitedCalifornia-licensed veterinarians from "performing surgical claw removalprocedures, declawing or flexor tendonectomy on a cat, including a cat thatis a member of a large and exotic cat species."

At the time, Schumacher told DVM Newsmagazine Koretz's attempt to enacta statewide declaw ban was a "feel-good issue," entertained becausethe state's huge budget deficit wouldn't allow for large spending proposals.

"Our legislators just can't sit on their hands and not do anything,"he says.

Koretz's capital and local offices did not returned phone calls seekingcomment.

Grassroots effort gains momentum

Now Schumacher and the CVMA's lawyers are poised to deal a final blowto the ban. At presstime, legal experts were researching the legitimacyof the West Hollywood ordinance, questioning whether a municipality hasthe authority to ban a surgical procedure deemed legal by the state. Todispute the ordinance, a veterinarian in West Hollywood must be cited forperforming the surgery and subsequently challenge the misdemeanor, Schumachersays.

"It'll be a challenge to find someone to do that, but maybe that'swhat we'll explore," he says. "The bottom line is that peopleshould have the right to choose. That's really our argument in a nutshell."

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