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Strange Circumstances Make California First to Ban Declawing

By Sharon Seltzer on

As cities and counties scramble to get in under the wire of a January 1, 2010 deadline, California may inadvertently become the first state to ban the declawing of domestic cats.

Ironically, the regulation has become important to many local municipalities because of a bill signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Senate Bill 762 prohibits local governments from passing ordinances to ban declawing.

Before the new bill was signed, the issue of being “for or against” declawing was of little interest to most California cities - except West Hollywood which became the first city in the country to legislate a ban in 2003. Now with the deadline of a statewide law looming over their heads more and more towns are getting on the bandwagon by quickly putting through local bans that will override the new law.

The New York Times wrote, “Since late October, four cities – Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Monica – have passed anti-declawing ordinances, most in quick succession this month.”

This flurry of activity must have Governor Schwarzenegger scratching his head in puzzlement. He acted on the new law at the request of veterinary groups such as the California Veterinary Medical Association. This group took West Hollywood to court to have their ban reversed, but lost.

So in an effort to prevent other cities from doing the same thing the CVMA pushed for a statewide law, which Schwarzenegger signed.

According to the group’s president Mark Nunez, “The decision to declaw a cat should remain between the owner in consultation with his, or her, veterinarian on a case-by-case basis.”

Now the towns of Culver City, Burbank and Beverly Hills along with the counties of Humboldt, Marin and Sonoma are also proposing bans to their local governments.

Declawing is a serious surgery. It involves the amputation of all or part of a cat’s first paw joint to prevent the re-growth of the claw. A recent survey in California showed that most veterinarians took the issue very seriously and “consider the procedure to be a last resort.”

From my point of view, it appears that this whole mess occurred because veterinarians wanted the opportunity to discuss the issue with their clients rather than have it mandated. And the towns that passed the ban agreed with this, because they included a clause that allows veterinarians to perform a declawing surgery if they think there is a medical reason that calls for it.

So in my opinion, California has taken a “non-issue” and turned it into a heated political debate. It just goes to show that you can’t force legislation where it is not wanted.

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