The Recorder - 'A barbaric procedure': Many state vets support legislation to ban declawing of cats

Following the example of New York and Maryland, veterinarians in Massachusetts are rallying support to ban cat declawing procedures.

TO bill Introduced by Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, aims to ban the practice, a move Massachusetts veterinarians believe is much-needed regulation to protect cats.

“I think it’s a positive thing. … It’s something that is a humane consideration,” said Dr Steven Ellis, founder of Sunderland Animal Hospital. “It’s extremely uncomfortable, painful, and then there can be deformities in the foot and how the cat balances.”

Declawing is the surgical amputation of the last joints of a cat’s toes, similar to human fingertips below the last knuckle. This causes permanent pain and damage to cats as it cuts through the bones, tendons, nerves and ligaments of each paw.

At least 42 countries have made it illegal to declaw cats. The practice is banned in two states and more than a dozen municipalities.

“They are convenient surgery for people,” Ellis added. “There really isn’t any need for it in my mind. I haven’t heard of anyone making declaws in over 10-15 years. He has fallen out of favor with the public.”

Corroborating that, Dr. Samantha Clay, who bought South Deerfield Vet Clinic in 2021 and graduated from vet school five years ago, said she wasn’t even taught how to declaw cats when she was studying.

“I think it’s something most people don’t even think about,” Clay said. “When it was done commonly, I think there was a communication failure. … The owners think it was a matter of declawing, when in fact you were amputating a bone.”

There are more humane alternatives to dealing with cats scratching people or furniture, according to local experts.

Dr. Jessica Dias, a veterinarian at the Northampton Veterinary Clinic, said owners could wear nail guards to prevent damage from scratching or have their nails trimmed regularly by groomers.

“[Declawing cats] has been reserved [for] situations where there really aren’t any other options for clients or patients,” Dias explained, “whether it’s the health concerns of an owner who is on anticoagulant medication and is at risk of serious complications from a scratch, or a patient who You run the risk of being abandoned. ”

Dias added that a vet is more likely to help find a new home for a cat who agrees to declaw it.

Having worked in a clinic for more than 21 years, Nancy Long, an office manager at Hampshire Veterinary Hospital in Amherst, said the hospital has not declawed any cats in more than a decade for ethical and medical.

Long added that he has also not heard from the owners requesting declawing during his time there.

“You have to think and do the right thing. … Pets are like children,” she said.

Ellis, who has held a PhD in veterinary medicine since 1993 and opened his practice in Sunderland in 2001, said they used to perform declawing procedures in the past, but “it was something we discouraged” unless it was for some kind of problem. doctor. .

“It was certainly something I didn’t want to do,” he said.

Currently, the bill allows declawing for therapeutic reasons, such as removing a cancerous growth from a cat’s toe. Penalties for violating the law would be up to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation, $1,500 for the second violation, and $2,500 for the third or subsequent violations.

In addition to developing chronic pain, declawing cats also damages their mental and physical health, and can cause behavioral problems. When cats are declawed, neuromas can form on their toes and this can cause them to refuse to use the litter box.

Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, president of Forensic Veterinary Investigations LLC, added that there are limited, if any, benefits to declawing a cat.

“Cat declawing is a barbaric procedure and, to me, it is fundamentally wrong because it removes a part that belongs to the cat without any therapeutic benefit to the cat,” Smith-Blackmore said. “I really feel it shouldn’t be allowed to be done because it’s of no benefit to the cat.”

Smith-Blackmore added that cats often turn themselves in to the animal shelter for having litter box issues.

TO study showed that 33% of cats suffer from at least one behavioral problem after tendinectomy or declawing surgery, 17.9% of cats declawed show an increase in biting and 15, 4% of cats would stop using a litter box.

Sydney Ko writes for the Greenfield Recorder of the Boston University Statehouse Program. Reporter Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected].