Five Calif. cities try to scratch out declawing procedures

Five Calif. cities try to scratch out declawing procedures

Lawmakers scramble to get laws on books before new state law takes effect
Dec 01, 2009

The last stretch: Some California cities are racing to pass laws banning cat declaw procedures before a January law blocks them from taking action.
Sacramento, Calif. — Five California municipalities are working to ban cat declawing before a new state law takes effect that will prevent them from doing so, and one has already been successful.

The Santa Monica City Council passed its ban on declawing Oct. 27 after hearing testimony from dozens of supporters and opponents. The measure passed 6-1 and allows declawing only in cases of medical necessity. A failed amendment would have allowed certain cases of declawing to prevent abandonment, relinquishment or euthanasia after counseling by veterinarians on declawing alternatives.

Santa Monica is the second California city to ban declawing following West Hollywood's decision in 2003. The West Hollywood ban was challenged in court but has stayed in place, prompting the creation of this year's law, sponsored by the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), to prevent cities from meddling in state-regulated professions such as veterinary medicine. The law will make it illegal for cities to ban state-licensed professionals from performing any duties allowed by the state but will not apply to any city ordinances adopted before Jan. 1, 2010.

The CVMA feared some cities would try to squeeze laws onto the books before the new law takes effect, and that's exactly what is happening. Santa Monica could soon be joined by Berkeley, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In Malibu, a city council member's pitch for a declawing ban did not move forward, but city council members did ask for a resolution to be drafted stating the city's position against the practice. But even if it's accepted by city council, the resolution would not make declawing illegal in Malibu.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved first and second readings of an ordinance to ban declawing on Nov. 3 and 10. The ordinance was in the mayor's hands for final approval at press time, and he was to make a decision by Nov. 20. Berkeley City Council approved its declaw ban on a first reading Nov. 10 and was scheduled to vote on a second reading Nov. 17. If approved again, the ordinance will take effect Dec. 18. Beverly Hills City Council was set to vote on its declaw ban Nov. 17, as well. A final declaw ban has earned preliminary approval from Los Angeles City Council, with a final vote scheduled for Nov. 17.

As the deadline approaches, the activity within municipalities has intensified.

But the activity comes as no surprise to CVMA Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker, who says the revived efforts to ban declawing in the face of the new law highlight the reason it was passed. It will be a relief when the new law takes effect, she says.

"It's a perfect example of what we passed the state law for. There will be this hopscotch of cities that decided a legal procedure is not legal in their city," Fenstermaker says, adding that local veterinarians and the CVMA have been attending meetings in the cities that are proposing the bans to voice their concerns. "It's a little frustrating, but we assumed something like this would happen."