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January 01, 2020

HOD to deliberate on declawing

AVMA House of Delegates also to consider microchips, cribbing, use of technology
Published on December 11, 2019

Last year, New York became the first state to outlaw cat declawing. Under a proposed new version of the AVMA policy on declawing of cats, the AVMA would discourage onychectomy while respecting veterinarians’ professional judgment on whether to perform the procedure.

The AVMA House of Delegates will deliberate on the policy during its regular winter session, Jan. 10-11 in Chicago. The HOD also will consider revisions to the Association’s policy on microchip identification and new policies on cribbing in horses and the use of technology in veterinary medicine.

Kitten and scratching post

Declawing policy

The new version of the policy on declawing would simplify the AVMA’s position on the procedure. Additional information would remain available at AVMA's Declaw... or Not? page. According to background materials, “Great care was taken to balance the fact that elective onychectomy does not directly benefit the cat and the reality that there are rare circumstances where declawing may be a valid option after alternative interventions have failed.” 

Also according to background, “The language of the revised policy is more consistent with the existing policies of the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners without opposing the procedure.” Representatives of AAHA and the AAFP were members of an AVMA Animal Welfare Committee subcommittee that performed the initial review of the AVMA policy.

The proposed AVMA policy reads as follows:

Declawing of Domestic Cats
The AVMA discourages the declawing (onychectomy) of cats as an elective procedure and supports non-surgical alternatives to the procedure. However, the AVMA respects the veterinarian’s right to use professional judgment when deciding how to best protect their individual patients’ health and welfare. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the veterinarian to counsel the owner about the natural scratching behavior of cats, the alternatives to surgery, as well as the details of the procedure itself and subsequent potential complications (e.g. surgical, behavioral, maladaptive pain). Onychectomy is a surgical amputation and if performed, multi-modal perioperative pain management must be utilized.

Other policies

The revised policy on microchips would return to the basics, leaving detailed discussion for the AVMA website at the Microchipping of animals page. The proposal is to rename the policy from “Microchips: The Objectives and Key Elements Needed for Effective Electronic Identification of Companion Dogs, Cats, Other Small Mammals, Birds, Fish, Reptiles, Amphibians and Equids” to “Microchip Identification of Companion Animals and Equids.”

According to background materials, the new version of the policy would no longer dictate the precise situations, frequency, or procedure for microchip scanning, which could conflict with state laws regarding property ownership.

The AVMA would condemn the placement of hog rings or other devices around the teeth to prevent cribbing in horses under the proposed new policy on “Management of Cribbing in Horses.” Per the proposed policy, “These devices are detrimental to the welfare and health of the horse due to the potential to cause persistent pain, damage to the gingiva, periodontal disease and abrasive wear to adjacent teeth.”

The new policy on “Use of Technology in Veterinary Medicine” would combine two policies on technology: “Use of Technology, Including Biotechnology, in Veterinary Medicine and Animal Agriculture” and “Use of Innovative Technologies in Development of Drugs, Vaccines and Diagnostic Modalities.”