Santa Monica seeks to ban declawing ahead of new state rule

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Sep 23, 2009
Santa Monica, Calif. -- Santa Monica City Council voted 5-1 Sept. 22 in favor of drafting a new law that would restrict animal declawing.

It is the latest attempt in California to pass a law banning the practice before a new state rule becomes effective that would prevent local governments from limiting the practice of a licensed profession. A similar ban is being sought in San Francisco.

The Santa Monica measure calls for the drafting of a new ordinance “restricting the practice of amputating the toes of animals, euphemistically called declawing.” The proposal directs that the ordinance be drafted and returned to Council in time to take effect before Dec. 31. Once legislation is drafted, public hearings would be required, followed by affirmative votes by Council on its first and second readings. The law would have to be favorably voted upon by Council 30 days before it would take effect.

Santa Monica City Council member Kevin McKeown, who proposed the new legislation, says Santa Monica first pitched the idea of limiting declawing back in 2003 At the time, West Hollywood's ban was being challenged in court and he says Council wanted to see how that battle would play out. Now, it seems time is running out to make a move, he says.

"We're not talking about pampering your pet with a manicurist," McKeown says. "So-called declawing is 10 separate, painful amputations of the first joint of each toe on both front paws, 20 amputations is the front and hind paws are done."

The law in Santa Monica would not totally ban declawing, he adds, saying veterinarians would still be able to perform the procedure when there is a medical reason to do so.

At least five local veterinarians plus a number of residents showed up at the Sept. 22 Council meeting in favor of drafting legislation, McKeown says, adding there was also a representative present from the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) voicing opposition.

The Dec. 31 deadline is critical to Santa Monica, given that a new state law will go into effect Jan. 1, prohibiting local governments from passing laws that would keep veterinarians from performing duties allowed under the state’s practice law and licensing standards. The new state law doesn’t affect local laws that go into effect before the new year.

Already exempted is the declaw ban passed several years ago in West Hollywood. San Francisco is seeking a similar ban, even though it is opposed even by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA). The SFSPCA in a recent statement says it fears cat owners without the option to declaw their pets may decide to simply give them up. McKeown says he has heard that Los Angeles may also try and pass a declawing ban before the new state law takes effect.

The CVMA supported passage of the new state law in July, but feared that cities would rush through new laws before Jan. 1. So far the San Francisco and Santa Monica proposals are the only ones on the table, according to a CVMA spokesman.