July 26, 2019

Legislation with Claws

New York State just joined most of Western Europe, the U.K. and Australia in banning the declawing of cats, except in the case of medical necessity. Bravo New York State! Sadly, so far the practice is legal in most Canadian jurisdictions.

In March 2017, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) changed its position on the practice, and now opposes the surgery for non-medical purposes outright. By the fall of that year the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) board changed its positon to the CVMA’s stricter standard. Previously, the OHS had grudgingly accepted the practice only as an alternative to euthanasia. But the reality of declawing for felines is so horrendous that the OHS believes that rehoming is a preferred option if owners cannot or will not address scratching by redirecting their cat’s normal behaviour onto an acceptable surface such as a scratching post.

So, why is declawing such an important animal welfare issue?  Some people imagine that the procedure is a simple procedure that removes a cat’s nails, similar to having your fingernails trimmed. But in reality, it’s far more extreme. Declawing involves the removal of all or most of the last bone of each of the toes of the front paws, including tendons, nerves and ligaments. It essentially disfigures a cat’s natural anatomy, which can affect its balance and everyday behavior.

Fortunately, fewer and fewer veterinarians will perform the surgery and a more enlightened community is demanding it less. Through legislation, veterinary practice or education, one day the procedure will be relegated to the dustbin of history along with other painful and damaging procedures that humans perpetrate upon animals.

Bruce Roney
President and CEO