City bans cat declawing

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When the West Hollywood, Calif., City Council voted unanimously April 7 for a measure banning cat declawing, the city where pet-owning residents are known as pet guardians also became what is thought to be the first city in the country to prohibit the surgical procedure.

In January, council members condemned the practice of animal declawing and directed the city attorney to investigate the legality of prohibiting veterinarians from performing onychectomies and tendonectomies on cats (see JAVMA, March 1, 2003, page 560).

Affected by the ban are the city's three veterinary practices.

California Assemblyman Paul Koretz, whose district includes West Hollywood, has introduced a bill that would amend the state veterinary practice act to prohibit onychectomies and tendonectomies from being performed on domestic cats, as well as on large and exotic cats.

The Paw Project, an organization opposed to declaw surgeries, supports the West Hollywood ban and is lobbying for Koretz's legislation, A.B. 395.

The California VMA and Cat Fanciers' Association don't want the procedures prohibited, however. One objection is that the choice to have the procedure is a private matter between a client and veterinarian. Another concern is that cats will be abandoned or euthanatized by persons unable to control their cats' scratching behavior.

In addition, Dr. Richard Schumacher, California VMA executive director, questions whether the West Hollywood City Council has the right to ban a procedure that's legal in every other part of the state. The association might eventually challenge the prohibition, but for now, the association is focused on defeating Koretz's bill, Dr. Schumacher said.