San Francisco considers ban on cat declaw surgeries

San Francisco considers ban on cat declaw surgeries

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Jul 16, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
San Francisco -- San Francisco may become the second U.S. city, the other is West Hollywood, Calif., to adopt legislation banning the declawing of cats for non-therapeutic reasons.

The San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare voted 5-1 Thursday to recommend that the Board of Supervisors ban the procedure. The proposed legislation is the most recent, and restrictive, attempt by the city to ban declawing. In 2003, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution "urging pet guardians and veterinarians to discontinue the practice of declawing cats in the city and county of San Francisco."

If approved, the city's law could mirror one passed in West Hollywood in 2003.

Chris Cowing, DVM, spoke out against the proposed ban as a representative of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

The CVMA filed suit against West Hollywood to overturn its law in 2005. In a 2-1 ruling in June 2007, the Court of Appeal upheld the anti-declaw ordinance, the only one of its kind in the nation. The San Francisco City Attorney's office filed legal arguments in support of West Hollywood.

The West Hollywood ordinance makes it illegal to perform declawing within city limits, except for therapeutic purposes such as removal of infected or injured tissue.

But earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will prohibit cities or counties from passing laws that would keep veterinarians from performing duties allowed under the state’s licensing standards.

This new law will prevent cities and counties from passing those types of laws, but only for legislation passed after Jan. 1, 2010.

CVMA, which has stated in the past that it is opposed to cities banning practices supported by veterinarians, veterinary associations and the state board, sponsored the bill.

If San Francisco passes the measure before the deadline, the law will stand, just like the West Hollywood law.

Dr. Jennifer Conrad, a veterinarian and founder of The Paw Project, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization, helped sponsor the West Hollywood law and testified in favor of the San Francisco ban.

"Declawing can result in lameness and other physical problems," Conrad told the commission. "It can also lead to litter box avoidance and biting, behavioral problems that can result in pets being abandoned at animal shelters."

Commissioners questioned whether declawing might be necessary for cats in households of immunocompromised persons, a common argument in favor of keeping declawing legal.

The entire commission, with the exception of veterinarian commissioner, Dr. David Gordon, supports adopting the language used in West Hollywood's law.