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VCA Animal Hospitals Ban Declaw


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After the American Veterinary Medical Association and the approximately 1,000 Banfield the Pet Hospitals crafted stronger statements opposing declaw, now the 750 VCA animal hospital group pretty much decided “the heck with it” and outrightly banned declaw as elective option. If you don’t know, declaws in cats are truly amputations, as the last part of the digit is removed.  Here is the VCA Statement:

We believe that every pet owner has the responsibility for providing a safe and supportive home for their animal that enables appropriate expression of natural behaviors and fully integrates them into the home and family. Every medical procedure supported by our veterinary practices has been put in place with the health and wellbeing of pets in mind and, based on this, we do not support the elective declawing of any animal in our veterinary practices.
 
Declawing includes surgical onychectomy, digital flexor tendonectomy, and generalized phalangectomy for non-medical reasons. Feline scratching and nail sharpening are normal behaviors and the removal of nails has been shown to lead to chronic pain and, in some cases, to cause long-term behavioral issues. We believe that education of pet owners about appropriate behavioral and environmental modifications are humane alternatives to these elective procedures. 

In 2019 New York State became the first state to outrightly ban declaw procedures, but the New York State Veterinary Medical Association unsuccessfully opposed this. Now, VCA is pretty clearly saying declaw is wrong. State associations that fight against the declaw bans pretty much have two arguments:

  1. “We don’t want to be told how to practice veterinary medicine,” and while on the surface I agree, it’s been shown that declaws are not beneficial to cat health and actually cause medical problems. Of course, being an amputation, the question regarding adequate pain relief is real. For example, human amputees often feel “phantom pain” their entire lives. Dr. Robin Downing (and other experts) watch cats’ walk years following declaw – and though they don’t look like they are lame – she can observe an unnatural gate indicating pain and identify the cat has been declawed. Various recent studies indicate a variety of medical issues resulting from declaw. What’s more, given the choice, what would a cat would say, “I’m all in amputate me for your convenience?” I hardly think so. So, there’s an ethical issue. Given all this – just as there are laws indicating what doctors and dentists may or may not do, as much as I don’t want government in veterinary exam rooms, it’s reasonable for others to defend cat welfare if veterinarians don’t, based on what we know today.
  2. A concern for human health. Correct many don’t know the veterinarian role in human health risks, and the concern here is that immune suppressed individuals or hemophiliacs or senior citizens with thin skin (due to age) will need to give up cats While understanding this concern, in Europe  (where declaw is banned in many nations), immune suppressed individuals and people with health issues still have cats, even if they are 95. (Also, keeping claws cut short and using products like Soft Paws may help).

Also, today we far understood behavior modification to encourage appropriate scratching, there’s now even a pheromone product called Feliscratch by Feliway – which directs cats to posts. The product is inexpensive and non invasive.

The tide is clear – declaw is more than politically incorrect – it’s simply incorrect, and inhumane.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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