Why is Declawing Illegal in the UK?

It is useful to specify the exact reason why it is illegal to declaw a cat in the United Kingdom. This is because it tells that it would be extremely easy to make it illegal in the United States from a legislative standpoint. It is not complicated. The obstacle in making declawing illegal in the United States is that the people of North America don’t want it to be illegal (the opposite is the case in Great Britain). Cat owner’s and veterinarian’s want to keep it. Vets consistently resist change and attempts to ban declawing. They lobby politicians, the law makers, to encourage them to maintain the status quo. There is a surprising difference in attitude between American and British veterinarians. It makes me wonder where that difference comes from.

In the United Kingdom we have a brilliant piece of statutory legislation. It is the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It sets the standard for animal care and specifies what is criminal behaviour in relation to a person’s treatment of an animal either directly, in directing someone else or allowing it to happen when responsible for an animal.

cat studying law!

Picture above: this lovely ginger tabby lives in the UK and he is concerned for his USA brothers and sisters.

The part of the Act that covers the operation of declawing is section 5 (1) (a) and (b) and section 5 (3). I have highlighted the text in red below based on a cat’s owner instructing a vet to declaw their cat; the classic example of how declawing happens in the USA.

The Act does not say, ‘declawing cats is illegal and a crime’. The language is less specific – but specific enough – in order that it can cover other procedures that might take place in the future or unforeseen events.

Here is the wording of the section 5:

5 Mutilation

(1) A person commits an offence if

(a) he carries out a prohibited procedure on a protected animal;

(b) he causes such a procedure to be carried out on such an animal.

(2) A person commits an offence if—

(a) he is responsible for an animal,

(b) another person carries out a prohibited procedure on the animal, and

(c) he permitted that to happen or failed to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as were reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent that happening.

(3) References in this section to the carrying out of a prohibited procedure on an animal are to the carrying out of a procedure which involves interference with the sensitive tissues or bone structure of the animal, otherwise than for the purpose of its medical treatment.

(4) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply in such circumstances as the appropriate national authority may specify by regulations.

(5) Before making regulations under subsection (4), the appropriate national authority shall consult such persons appearing to the authority to represent any interests concerned as the authority considers appropriate.

(6) Nothing in this section applies to the removal of the whole or any part of a dog’s tail.


What the wording in red says is that if a person asks a veterinarian to declaw their cat and he acts on the request it is an offence (a crime) because declawing is a prohibited procedure as it involves interfering with ‘sensitive tissues or bone structure of the animal for non-therapeutic purposes ( i.e not for the animal’s medical treatment). Also the vet commits a crime as he carries out the prohibited procedure (section 5 (1)(a)). The vet is also in breach of his guidelines and code of practice.

There are specific exceptions to the prohibition on mutilations by a veterinarian but none apply to the cat. There is one general exception; that a mutilation can take place in an emergency. As this would never apply to a request to declaw by the cat’s ‘owner’, declawing for the convenience of the owner is absolutely barred.

The entire Act is quite short and written in plain language. What is interesting is that the Act was not required to stop declawing because it was not happening. It is not and never has been ‘on the radar’. Vets in the UK consider it an act of animal cruelty. Although there must have been the odd instance of it taking place.

The veterinarian’s guide also prohibits declawing (see below selected part):

Guide to Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons 1C.

Your responsibilities to your patients

h. a veterinary surgeon must not cause any patient to suffer

i. by carrying out any unnecessary mutilation

1G. Your responsibilities under the law

1. Veterinary Surgeons should be sufficiently familiar with and comply with relevant legislation including: b. the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Note: Wikipedia quote a section of the Vet’s Guide but I can’t see it on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s website so I have not included it here.

The crime of unnecessary mutilation carries a maximum of 51 weeks in jail on conviction and/or a max. fine of £20,000.


Picture by raider of gin on Flickr


Comments

Why is Declawing Illegal in the UK? — 7 Comments

  1. I find that the best way to get things done in the states is a Facebook/Twitter/Cat-Blog/(I’ll add Pinterest, since it’s going to be the next Twitter)campaign. I marvel at how quickly the raw food craze took root. It was a matter of a few months and now it’s considered uncouth to do anything but in some circle (for both cats and dogs). I guess I better get started. :)

    • Get started Dan! What would give me the greatest pleasure in a very long time is a change in the Aniamal Welfare laws of the USA to make declawing illegal. At the same time it would raise the image of the USA in the eyes of animal lovers worldwide.

  2. There isn’t a lot to be proud of in the UK at the moment as far as I can see, except for our Animal Welfare Bill!!!!!

  3. Many true cat lovers in the USA and Canada who are anti declaw are jealous of our Animal Welfare Bill because if the same bill was passed in their countries, declawing would have to stop immediately.
    The people who say they are cat lovers and against declawing but don’t want another law passed as they have too many laws already are very selfish because it’s the only way it will be stopped. If they truly did love cats then they would agree to anything to end the mutilation of them.
    How do those declaw vets live with their conscience? They knowingly break their oath to cause no animal to suffer and justify it with the ridiculous excuse (and untruth) that it keeps cats in their homes, that they don’t declaw to make money.
    I don’t know of any vet who would ever have declawed a cat here in the UK before it was illegal to do so, it is disgraceful that a law to stop it happening in the USA and Canada should be necessary, vets are supposed to be there to help animals, not to please clients, nor to make money.
    Well they don’t like it that we true cat lovers from all countries campaign for a ban and spread the truth and save as many cats claws as we can, but tough, we will go on dong that for as long as it takes to get that cruelty banned.

  4. Declawing cats has been illegal in Australia all my life. Both cat owner and veterinarians can receive fines for declawing a cat for reasons other than medical or trauma.

    • Great. Now the Australians should learn to deal with the feral cat, that they created, more humanely. Please stop shooting at the feral cat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

To upload a photo (1) place the photo on the desktop of your computer (2) write your comment (3) click on the "browse" button below the comment area (4) select the photo (5) click on the "post comment" button (6) wait and it will appear if you are a regular. It failed? Please click this. Thanks.