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Judge strikes at declaw ban, sides with CVMA


Los Angeles — A Superior Court judge ended West Hollywood's fight to ban cat declaws for now.

LOS ANGELES — A Superior Court judge ended West Hollywood's fight to ban cat declaws for now.

At presstime, city council members were expected to consider appealing Judge James Bascue's Nov. 30 ruling declaring West Hollywood's ordinance banning cat declaws to be unlawful, invalid and unenforceable. The decision was based on a technicality: A local municipality cannot supersede state law.

The ruling overturns West Hollywood's April 2003 decree deeming onychectomies criminal. But as California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) officials celebrate the "huge victory for veterinarians," city attorney Mike Jenkins describes the verdict as too narrow. The animal rights community is "upset," he adds.

"The trial judge decided that a provision in state law precludes a city from regulating a licensed profession," Jenkins says. "We argued that procedures are nontherapeutic and inhumane, are not part of veterinary medical practice and hence, were not outside the realm of our ability to regulate."

If the city takes the case to the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, it will be based on that same contention, he says.

In defense of veterinary medicine

West Hollywood's move to become the nation's first governing body to ban cat declaws took aim at a common veterinary procedure while attracting national media attention. The move prompted CVMA to seek a permanent injunction and declaratory relief to protect veterinarians' rights to perform the otherwise lawful medical procedure.

While no West Hollywood practitioners were prosecuted for declawing cats, Jenkins confirms there have been investigations. CVMA Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker applauds the judge's decision.

"It upholds the state's authority and doesn't allow cities and counties to decide what's best for animals and for veterinary medicine," she says.

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