New bill would ban cat declawing in California

Joan Morris, Bay Area News Group

A bill that would ban declawing of cats, a surgical procedure many consider cruel and unnecessary, has started its way through the California legislature.

Declawing has been banned in many parts of the world, and is illegal in San Francisco, Los Angeles and six other California cities.

“Declawed cats can suffer long-term physical complications as a result of declawing,” said  Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who introduced the bill, AB 1230. “It’s not just a fancy manicure. It’s painful, unnecessary and needs to stop.”

When cats are declawed, the last joint on each toe is removed to prevent the claw from growing back. Many veterinarians have called the practice barbaric, causing unneeded pain and suffering, and leading to unexpected complications.

The most common reasons giving for declawing cats is to prevent them from tearing up the furniture or scratching their owners.

“Declawing is one of the most painful and unnecessary surgeries in all of veterinary medicine,” said veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who is the founder of the veterinarian-run nonprofit Paw Project. “We’ve seen what these cats go through. We are veterinarians who are standing up against the status quo because it is the right thing to do. We want veterinary medicine to be about helping animals, not helping couches.”

If the bill is enacted, Quirk said, only licensed veterinarians performing the procedure for specific therapeutic purposes will legally be able to declaw a cat.

Although declawed cats can’t scratch, recent studies have found that they are more likely to bite and have other behavioral issues that can result in them ending up in animal shelters.

Brenda Barnette, general manager for the Los Angeles Animal Services Department, says since the declaw bans went into effect, the number of cats abandoned to city shelters have decreased for multiple cities each year.

“I attribute the decrease in relinquishment of cats to our shelters to the decrease in behavioral problems that are the result of declawing,” Barnette said. “We strongly believe that a ban on declawing saves the lives of cats.”