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Veterinary Heroes™ 2022 winner: Jennifer Conrad, DVM
Get to know our feline medicine winner for the 2022 Veterinary Heroes™ Awards
Jennifer Conrad, DVM, winner of the Veterinary HeroesTM program's Feline Medicine category, sponsored by Zoetis, has been on a mission to inform the public on the painful and crippling impacts of declawing in both big and small cats for over 20 years. The awareness initiative supports animal welfare by promoting declaw bans in the United States and Canada and rehabilitating cats who have undergone this surgery. Despite powerful backlash, the organization has successfully sponsored anti-declawing legislation in the states New York and Maryland, plus in 4 US counties, and 12 cities nationwide. The Paw Project has helped end declawing in 8 of the 10 Canadian provinces, and legislation is pending in the other 2.
A graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Conrad began her journey in 1999 working with lions, leopards, tigers, and other big cats at an animal sanctuary. She quickly witnessed the detrimental effects of declawing and discovered how to repair the amputation, helping these charismatic creatures so they could comfortably walk again. From there, she decided to champion for these animals from a grassroots approach: by striving to abolish feline declawing altogether.
“I started to do [these paw repair surgeries] one after the other on these big cats and I thought, ‘Wow, this is remarkable,’ because as a veterinarian, you want to do the best you can for an animal and change their lives for the better. I thought these animals who have been lame for so long and are crip-pled are so much better after they get surgery,” Conrad said.
“I took this female lion to have her paws repaired, and she had been flat-footed. That same day, the deputy to the mayor of West Hollywood came to visit me because word got out about what I was doing—about how miraculous it was that these cats could walk again,” she said. “I said to the deputy mayor, ‘Why don’t we just make it illegal to declaw cats in West Hollywood? We can do something so I don’t have to keep repairing.’ He thought it was a good idea. And lo and behold, that’s when it all started.”