Calif. cities line up to enact cat declaw bans

Calif. cities line up to enact cat declaw bans

Seven cities scramble as new state law blocks them from regulation veterinary procedures in 2010
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Jan 01, 2010

National Report— As 2009 drew to a close, several California cities made a dash to ban cat declaw procedures before a new state law took effect in 2010 that would prevent them from doing so.

On Dec. 8, Burbank became the last city to pass an ordinance banning cat declawing. It joined the ranks of Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Culver City and Los Angeles — which all banned the practice by late November — and San Francisco and Santa Monica, which passed similar bans earlier in November. Malibu condemned the practice but did not pass legislation outlawing it. A few more counties were looking at passing bans in December, but time was running out.

With the blessing of the California Veterinary Medical Associaiton and at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day, a new state law will prevent cities from passing ordinances that interfere with rulings by state licensing boards.

"Veterinarians must be allowed to make qualified medical decisions in consultation with their clients and upon a proper exam and understanding of the pet's home environment. This is the only way to provide the best course of treatment and assist the owner in making the best decision for their family pet," CVMA says in a statement about the declawing bans. "The January 1, 2010, effective date is motivating advocates to push their agenda of banning cat declawing through local channels without the benefit of fair discussion or an educational discourse on the issue. By doing so, they have shown a clear example of why SB 762 was a sound and important decision by the state legislature."

CVMA Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker says association officials were expecting some cities to pass legislation before the new law took effect, but that doing so just adds to the confusion.

"SB 762 was passed to ensure that approved medical procedures performed by all licensed health-care practitioners, including physicians, dentists and veterinarians, are consistent throughout the state of California," Fenstermaker says. "The scenario that is resulting from the recent cat declaw bans is a perfect example of why the bill was passed — cities deciding what veterinary procedures can be performed in their city and a resulting confusion among the public and practitioners on what is and isn't legal and enforceable. In addition, these decisions are being made by city councils, composed of members who, in most cases, do not have a medical professional background and do not fully understand the science behind many procedures or the veterinarian/client/patient relationship."

West Hollywood was the first California city to pass a declaw ban in 2003, spurring a fight between the city and the state veterinary medical association over whether cities could interfere with state-licensed professions. The new state law won't affect laws passed before Jan. 1, 2010.