The American Veterinary Medical Association released a statement from the recent AVMA Convention regarding declawing cats. The statement recognizes declawing as an amputation,encourages the veterinarian to FULLY educate the owner about the declawing procedure and potential complications, and that declawing be used as a last ditch procedure once all other efforts have been made to deter any destructive scratching behavior. Did you know that declawing a cat in the UK would cost the VETERINARIAN a year in prison and a $20,000 fine? And declawing is punishable in several other countries around the world, and in some local jurisdictions within the United States? I must confess, I did not realize this until I began researching this as a show topic, but I will now offer comment as one of the money grubbing veterinarians who is not necessarily a proponent of feline phalangeal amputation, but I am a proponent of the preservation of individual freedoms which have no consequence to the individual freedoms of other people. Let me preface this by stating that while I have worked on a multitude of species (i.e. in “mixed ” animal practices), I predominantly focus my work on horses, but have been found declawing a pet rabbit or two for long time clients.

The most interesting part of the AVMA’s statement on declawing was the comments it garnered. One commentor related how she had worked for a veterinarian who would use a guillotine nail clipper to hastily perform the declaw, toss the toes over his shoulder, and make her find them and pick them up throughout the room. Several told of post-operative complications experienced by the cat following the procedure and many correlated the procedure with the veterinarian willing to inflict pain and suffering to make a quick buck. Each of these comments bring to light points worth discussion and consideration.

While I personally would regard the veterinary surgeon who makes a mockery of his work and his patient as a butcher rather than a surgeon, I would guess the situation to be self limiting in that good employees would soon seek employment elsewhere, other parts of the practice deteriorate, and the person is left to either reconsider how he behaves in his practice, is censored, or gets to the point of not being able to maintain enough help to keep his practice operable. Shame on him for not having enough pride in his work and respect for his patient to be more considerate of the job he is doing. As for post-operative complications…they happen. Would you choose not to spay or neuter your animal because of the risk of post-operative complications? Now the alternative may be the bitch being in heat which brings about dripping on the floor or unwanted male dogs coming around frequently or a litter of pups to feed, raise and likely find homes for. The male dog, well, are you willing to train the leg-hunch out of him and make sure he’s not the one running in front of cars trying to be first in line to the unspayed bitch? Now obviously that’s not the case with every dog, but it is with some, and for those people who have to deal with those problems in their animals, the risk of surgery far out weighs the inconveniences the unaltered behavior produces, and is a more palatable choice than abandonment, surrender to a shelter, or euthanasia. I would argue the same is the case with the cat presented for declawing. While the procedure does carry risk of complications, not unlike ANYTHING ANYONE does, it is, and should continue to be, an available alternative to the owner desiring it. As for the third argument of vets wanting to make a quick buck inflicting pain and suffering, I would be willing to bet the vet or lay person selling behavior modification training, tools, techniques, nail caps and the like are also making money by doing so, as they should be in an open market capitalistic society. I refer back to the spay and neuter comparison again regarding pain. Both spaying and neutering requires as deep a plane of anesthesia as does declawing because both procedures are painful. Surgery IS painful, as is recovery and rehabilitation often times, and that is why we use anesthesia and pain killers. As for the financial part, give me a break! Do you encourage your kids, or did your parents encourage you, to go to school, make good grades, study hard, to get a good job or start a business to earn a good living to have a good life? I would love to see the examples of who has done that more, for less, than the general practitioner veterinarian. Not complaining, it’s each of our choices, but few make the money they could in other vocations.

Cats are fantastic animals! Useful, entertaining, enjoyable and exceptional companions. If you have or want to have a cat, or any animal for that matter, I encourage you to find a veterinarian who aligns with you philosophically on the care of your animal to help you provide both you and the animal with the quality of life all creatures deserve. And I hope our society continues to allow you the owner and me the veterinarian to care for the animal in a moral and ethical way within the uniqueness of each individual situation.