Israel has banned the practice of cat declawing, joining the ranks of a number of other counties that have found it inhumane enough to prohibit. This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law prohibiting declawing (with a few medical exceptions). Violators can face up to a year in prison as well as a fine. This is good news for Israeli cats. Unfortunately for American cats, the situation is not quite as bright. In the United States, declawing cats is a common practice among pet-owners, with one poll showing 55% of cat owners approve of the practice. Unfortunately many people do not understand that declawing a cat is not simply the same as clipping its claws. Declawing is really amputation, and similar to actually removing the last segment of a human’s finger or toe. While some pet owners insist that their cats act the same as they did before declawing and they do not know the difference, the hidden truth is that declawing affects the way a cat walks and balances. The difference in the way thei r feet grip the ground can lead to back pain. Other complications can include hemorrhages, regrowth of the claw inside the foot, lameness, and abscesses. For more information on the physical aspects of declawing, see here.
There is, of course, controversy surrounding the issue, with some vets, including some who have obviously given much thought to the issue, stating that it is a procedure that saves cats’ lives, given that many pet owners would not keep their cats if they could not declaw them. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) , while acknowledging that many cats would be relinquished and possibly put to death in shelters if they were not declawed, also acknowledges that it is a painful procedure with many potential complications. For AVMA details regarding the severity and occurrence of such complications, see here. There are ways to avoid such complications. Pet owners can simply refuse to declaw their cats, instead choosing one of the numerous easy and non-invasive alternatives such as nail trimming and nail covers.
While the United States as a whole still allows the practice, several cities in California have banned it, with West Hollywood leading the charge in 2003. The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) filed suit at the time to block the West Hollywood law, claiming that the ordinance was preempted by the state’s Veterinary Medicine Practice Act (VMPA) and that it also violated the Business and Professions Code which prohibits municipalities from disallowing certain licensed individuals from practicing parts of their professions. The trial court granted summary judgment to the CVMA, however the law was upheld on appeal by the Ninth Circuit. The court held that while the Business and Professions Code did prohibit cities from requiring their own licensing requirements, it did not prohibit local regulation of the manner in which a profession is practiced. Further, the ordinance did not conflict directly with the CVMA, and so preemption was not an issue. We can only hope that more cities, and even states, will follow this lead as people become more aware of the physical damage that declawing does to cats.