At last! Declawing Renamed “Amputation” by AVMA

Declawed CatThe American Veterinary Medical Association are being forced to change their ways thanks to the pressure put upon them Jennifer Conrad and her team at The Paw Project and enlightened veterinarians such as Kirsten Doub of the Paw Project-Utah and Aubrey Lavizzo of the Paw Project Colorado. The changes are painfully slow but not as painful as the suffering of a declawed cat. There is a gradual trickle of change in the air. For example, the Truro Veterinary Hospital have stopped declawing as of 1st August 2014! They made the announcement on their website.

The latest development is very welcome by people who are educated enough to realise that declawing for non-therapeutic reasons is plain wrong.

At the AVMA national convention it was decided to come clean about the nature of the declaw operation. For donkey’s years the AVMA has been hiding the truly gruesome nature of the declaw operation by calling it “declawing”; a smoke and mirrors act of disguise to fool the public.

They reluctantly decided to clarify things – at last – by using the word “amputation” in its description. Let’s not forget that this is only the truth. It is not a revelation. The AVMA have decided to tell the truth 50 years after one of their members invented the ghastly operation. Better late than never I guess.

Dr Ted Cohn is the new AVMA president. He says that the intention is to “elevate the seriousness of the procedure in the minds of veterinarians and, hopefully, the public”.

Is he actually saying that the veterinarians don’t realise how serious the operation is? I find that astonishing. It could be true and if it is, it tells us how out of touch with reality the vets are who carry out this operation for non-therapeutic reasons (almost all of them).

The AVMA has been criticised for doing a poor job of educating the cat owning public about declawing. In truth it is actually worse than that. Some vets have actively deceived and mislead the public by understating the severity of the operation and the potential complications which can be lifelong and debilitating.

The AVMA have also justified declawing on the basis that is protects people with compromised immune systems. However, Aubrey Lavizzo the director of Paw Project Colorado, says that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines for immunocompromised people makes no reference to declawing cats. This is another example of veterinary dishonesty.

Dr Cohn is old-school. He believes that the partial amputation of ten toes (at least) is “still necessary in some cases”. He believes this because he says that if vets stopped doing the operation all together there would be “many more cats running feral or in shelters”.

Yes, initially some cat owners would abandon their cats to shelters because they are the wrong people to keep a cat. Then gradually less people would abandon their cats as they found ways to respect the whole cat, claws and all. Quite soon only people who were genuinely suited to owning a cat would care for cats and then we would see the long term benefits of many less abandonments and much less careless breeding and unwanted cats.

There would be major benefits to cat welfare in the long term if there was a nationwide cessation of cat toe amputations for convenience (aka declawing).

Aubrey Lavizzo wants more than a change in the words describing the operation. He is correct. I feel that more changes are to come but change is slow because these bad veterinary habits are deeply entrenched.

Source: Story on Denver Westword Blogs – photo by angela n on Flickr

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At last! Declawing Renamed “Amputation” by AVMA — 30 Comments

  1. At last the AVMA are acknowledging that there is no such thing as declawing, it is amputation!
    But will all declawing vets tell their clients the truth? I doubt it!
    Even if they do, will it stop the people whose furniture is more important than their cat from having the surgery done? I doubt it!
    Let’s hope it doesn’t upset the pro declaws sensibilities by sharing this news, some would rather it stayed under wraps, cold hearted people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a cat.
    The only way to educate is to shout from the rooftops how cruel declawing is, if people don’t like it then it’s their problem! They are not worth knowing!
    Telling the truth is a step forward but it’s not enough, the amputation of cats toe ends MUST be BANNED!
    I’ll be designing a poster for the Paw Project and facebook anti declaw groups about this, for sure!

    • I have a feeling, Ruth, that the pressure is building on the AVMA thanks to The Paw Project team and people like you which is causing a small but incremental change. Gradually more vets are questioning it. I don’t think it will be banned nationwide of statewide. I think the vets will gradually stop but it will be slow.

  2. I used to think a government ban was not necessary because we already have laws against animal cruelty and government is already too big. I have rethought my position. It is the rightful role of government to protect the innocent– that’s why we have laws, a court system, police officers and even the military– a government must keep order and protect its citizens. Cats and their guardians are harmed by declawing– a declawed cat is more likely to bite and less likely to use the litter box. Neither are good situations for public health. Declawing isn’t just bad for cats, it’s bad for humans. Consider the heartbreak when a cat who was a good pet has personality changes after declawing or exhibits obvious pain behaviors. It is now too late, the harm has been done and the pet owner never gave informed consent, because he was not informed this could happen. Vets hide the risks and true nature of the procedure. We all know it happens. Vet techs have written on this site that they were not allowed to inform clients of the true nature of declawing, the risks involved or the pain the cat would suffer. That’s criminal behavior. It’s high time we made it so according to the law and punished those who behaved so unethically.

    • When I was first in contact with Annie Bruce around 5 years ago she told me that declawed cats are a danger to people and she was right, but no one would listen to her. Maybe more needs to be said about this because those people who plan to have a kitten declawed to protect themselves from a few tiny scratches might think again if they know their declawed cat is likely to bite and/or mess out of the litter box.
      Countrywide education is needed, more education than ever!

    • I agree that the government should ban it for the reasons you state Ruth. Good reasons. But the government won’t do it. All governments do so many things wrong. I don’t think they have the moral fibre to ban declawing. The economics of it will guide them and there is too much money in it.

  3. The reason for my change of heart concerning an outright ban on declawing is personal. I was recently poisoned by a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. I am about 85-90% recovered. My musculoskeletal injuries healed quite rapidly, but the damage to my CNS is possibly permanent. Luckily, my symptoms are annoying but not debilitating, inconvenient but not disabling.

    I now live in fear of it happening to me again or happening to those I love. The medical community has its back up against the patients it should be protecting in the fight to ban these drugs. I’ve been laughed at and told I read too much on the internet. I was told by an ER that Cipro is very safe, even though it has two boxed warnings from the FDA. I’m reading every day stories of people who were poisoned (floxed) repeatedly because even though it was in their chart that they were not to be given FQ’s the MD used this type of antibiotic on them topically or put it in their IV. One elderly man who had a documented sensitivity to these drugs was given Levaquin in his IV and died six weeks later, after suffering constant hallucinations the whole time.

    FDA warnings didn’t protect me. Putting it in my medical record that I’m “allergic” to it won’t protect me. Only a government ban– a law that makes the use of fluoroquinolones a crime will protect me. FQ’s are the only drugs a doctor will still decide to give you even if you say you are allergic because for some godawful reason they are deeply invested in the notion that these drugs are safe and all floxies are hypochondriacs.

    When something can’t happen to you, you can say, “We don’t need another law.” But when something unthinkably horrible could happen directly to you, suddenly everything changes. If the protection of a law is something I need and want, then cats deserve it too. Because declawing is horrifically painful and debilitating. Just because it can’t happen to me doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be behind a law to stop it from happening to others.

    • I think any law to stop cruelty to animals is a good law and I don’t mind how many new laws are made here in the UK to do so, we have more than the USA but we still don’t have enough!

  4. I wonder how many vets carry malpractice insurance. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standards of care and accountability as any other healthcare professional?
    A botched surgery is a botched surgery. Pain and suffering is pain and suffering.
    I doubt that any caretaker opted for a lifetime of excruciating pain for their cat if they signed a declaw consent.
    I see adverts from attorneys all the time encouraging humans to pursue justice for surgeries, procedures, or drugs that went wrong. When will I be seeing the same for animals?

    • I agree Dee, it would only take one brave soul to challenge the vet who mutilated their cat for life and to win the case and then others would follow. Someone who wasn’t told the seriousness of the surgery, cats have ended up losing their entire paws, but no one has ever sued the butcher who caused it. Those vets make their money out of blood and suffering and deserve retribution.

      • I think a poster on FB depicting a lawyer being sued and, ultimately, losing his practice and right to treat animals, would scare the h-ll out of vets and plant the idea in the minds of caretakers, R.

          • And, consider writing an article sort of like, “Why Shouldn’t A Vet Be Sued For Hurting My Cat?”
            There are many places paying well right now for them.

            • I have always said one American, just one, should sue their vet for misrepresentation in contract (that would be a good start) on the basis that the vet didn’t explain the true nature of the operation. The recent change in description would now be a bit of a barrier but individual vets will still try and mislead.

              • In Wisconsin they would be unable to sue. In order to be sued a medical professional must do something substantially different than others in his or her field would have done under similar circumstances. So many vets declaw that it makes it impossible to sue any of them. That’s why I can’t sue my doctor for giving me a fourth line agent drug in an outpatient setting. Most other doctors would have done the same thing. I contacted a very good lawyer on this one. I have no case. To win two things must happen: the patient is completely and totally disabled (in the case of a cat that probably means he had to be put down) and the medical professional has to have done something very unusual, something other vets would not have done. Without both the case fails. It gets worse when it’s an animal. They cannot sue for pain and suffering only for the value of the animal. In Monty’s case that would be seventy five dollars. This is why there are not and will never be any vets taken to court over the harm done by declawing. Even if somehow the case fits both criteria it is worth at most maybe $1,000 and that’s for an expensive pure bred cat.

              • I think that any vet who misrepresents the procedure or leaves bone fragments is negligent. I think that botching a surgery and leaving a cat debilitated and in pain would qualify as having done something substantially different from any other vet. Bone fragments left are unmistakable and provable.
                I think the biggest obstacle is the amount of malpractice insurance carried. Many MD’s have greater than one million coverage. Vets may or may not be insured and, probably, would never exceed $100,000. So, if the settlement is more, take their home, practice, first born… Who cares?

                • Agreed – who cares. I would hope the litigation would be reported in the press. The cat owner could sue in contract and tort (negligence) and the publicity would help the campaign to stop declawing if there was a victory. It would be massive because it would set a precedent and force the AVMA to make big changes.

            • I’ve never ever written for any cat web site other than PoC Dee and I do understand why Michael doesn’t want any more anti declaw articles from me, I don’t mind upsetting American pro declaws by letting them know the truth, but I do know it’s not good for this website so I’ve bowed out gracefully.

              • It was a decision to try and get more American visitors. We don’t get enough compared to the other leading cat websites. I feel that the American visitor believes that PoC is too critical of Americans. That is not the case but it may be an impression they have.

                When declawing news comes up I have to report on it but other than that I think we are doing enough. As I said to Sylvia we have around 250 pages on anti-declawing which as a guess is more than all other cat sites put together. Taking they have more pages it seems but are they always anti-declaw? I think not.

              • Yes as I said Michael I do understand, I’m just a lost sheep at present having written for so long about declawing, but soon it won’t need writing about any more anyway thank goodness, I don’t see how it can go on happening for much longer now. I have high hopes it will be banned while I’m still here to celebrate it 😉

  5. A step in the right direction and about time too, it’s more than time the USA came out of the dark ages and woke up to the fact that declawing is far more than a manicure that makes the “kitty” feel good, not “taking out the nails” and not the easy way out to be taken rather than providing the scratching equipment cats need. It is life changing trauma for the cat and at last it’s going to be called what it is, amputation. So even though it’s not enough it’s a good start because gone now is the excuse that has been bleated so many times “I didn’t know what it involved”, provided the butchers who sell this service abide by this new agreement then cat owners who wish to mutilate their cats will be told exactly what they are paying to happen to their cat. The die-hard cruel uncaring owners will still go ahead, the ones that know exactly what they are subjecting their cat to. I would love these people to be arrested for cruelty. I hope in time declawing ends in the USA but while it’s still available, under any name, there will still be those who coldly choose to mutilate their cats.

  6. To make the most of this good news, it stretches belief that PoC is the only ‘across-the-pond’ website opposed to declawing. It might be of interest to know how the bans came about in the other 22 plus-or-minus countries. Surely the bans didn’t materialize out of the blue? Surely animal rights activists and DVMs pushed them into being, assuming declawing ever occurred in these countries? If legislation was enacted, who were its proponents? If their names could be discovered, it’s hard to believe they are indifferent to what is going on in America and Canada. It’s equally hard to believe that PoC is protesting all by itself – if it is – with no support from the factions that banned declawing in their countries.

    A suggestion.

    Instead of portrayals – heartrending as they are – of random acts of cruelty; instead of time spent describing or interacting with people scarred by their upbringing, people with a seemingly small interest in or aptitude for learning, with lives overflowing with disappointment, chemical addictions, biochemical/anatomical variations; instead of spending time with strangers to civilized conduct and a commitment to laudable goals; instead of being pelted by hatred, POC might gain a greater momentum by engaging with achievers.

    If there were a way, it might increase its contribution to these goals by (1) exchanging ideas with animal rights groups in countries that banned declawing. (2) By requesting input from PETA,* the SPCA, the Humane Society, The Cat Fanciers’ Association – a few among many organizations opposed to declawing. (3) By asking for input from the 80 or more American veterinarians and clinics that do not declaw (though the list isn’t current). (4) By asking Nathan Winograd for an interview. (5) Ditto Drs. Erica Rambus, Stacy McVicker, Kevin Fitzgerald (one of the highest-profile vets in the U.S.). (6) By asking to talk with everyone on the Paw Project staff, including Dr. Lavizzo, who hopes to ban declawing in his state (the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association – paradoxically? – named him ‘Veterinarian of the Year.’ Another beacon of hope? His stance has increased his practice!). (7) By asking Dr. Hofve for an interview. (‘Even Canada,’ she says, ‘is getting close to banning declawing.’) (8) By asking to talk with Pat Craig, founder of the Wild Animal Sanctuary. (9) By asking to talk with members of The Animal Legal Defense Fund and (10) The UCLA Animal Program.

    PoC could help to end declawing by seeking interactions with intelligent and eloquent, influential people.

    Lawyers and law students in the U.S. are providing a groundswell of interest in animal rights legislation. Are animals chattel? Not forever. A new era is dawning when law schools are brimming with enrollments in AR seminars. Can plaintiffs sue beyond the dollar value of their children? It’s inching along in that direction, reaching a point where parents might be able to sue for the ‘pain and suffering’ they endured from the loss or mutilation of their offspring. (There are websites on the subject, and names of attorneys who specialize in this litigation.)

    People like to be listened to. Unless they are adversarial, in-person interviews are a wonderful exchange. They’re also a cinch for anyone with Skype. Would these individuals and organizations grant interviews to PoC? Time allowing, why would they refuse?

    FB has no shortage of sucked-egg shutterbugs. Cranial empties. Hoarders. Crazies. PoC could help hasten the end of declawing by focusing a chunk of its time on the movers and shakers.

    There’s strength in numbers. The perpetrators are feeling the pinch when they’re driven to admit they’re amputating toes. Should POC hate Dr. Cohn? No. His admission had to be uphill.
    *True…..they do bad things.

    • There are more pages on PoC on vociferous anti-declawing (over 250 at a guess) than all the other cat websites put together. That too is a guess but I am pretty confident about it. I’ll respond to your comment more fully later if I may.

    • Hi Sylvia, you talk a lot of sense. Most people do love to make their views known, Skype is a Godsend for them. Not for me though, as I find it hard even to have a telephone conversation, I feel too much ‘on the spot’ and much prefer to write. I like to mull the words over and I’m not good at making myself understood when talking, people who don’t know me well sometimes see my reserve as arrogance or defiance.
      About how a declawing ban came about in other countries, I can only speak for ours and say our vets never declawed anyway, but all cosmetic surgery became illegal in our 2007 Pet Welfare Law, so declawing was covered by that.
      BTW a little off topic but you’ll be glad to know the MM has gone! I’ve emailed you but I know you don’t often get to the library xx

  7. The general concensus on the facebook anti declaw groups is that declaw vets still won’t tell their clients the truth, unless they ask. How about the advertising they do, are they going to offer neuteur/amputate toe ends packages and amputation with discount? I very much doubt it. So if not then they are selling a service by false misrepresentation!
    Oh I’ve some posters in my mind right now for the Paw Project and facebook anti declaws to use.

  8. Ruthie, ol’ pal — Yes…I agree with your observations. With one exception. You can draft your prime questions days in advance, then rattle them off at a leisurely pace when you sit down with him or her. The rest of the time? All you need do is listen and keep listening! People are thrilled by your interest. If you want them to, they can keep going for two or three days. Why? Because nobody really gets listened to in this Vale of Tears. Am sure I told you this once,but one of our top government big-wigs, several years back, got caught paying a call-girl $5,000 an hour.For what, pray tell? Well, ‘that,’ presumably. But MOSTLY – and this is the pitiful part – because she offered him a sympathetic ear. You were born with a kind heart, and anyone would love to tell you the story of their life whilst you jotted it down (tape recorders make people freeze up).
    But still can’t believe the vets can hold on much longer, can you? Yet it’s partly the ‘owners’ who are to blame. Last night I was surfing a Texan website and this Hogan the Hulk type was telling the world how he was in ‘charge’ of his blithering cats, and he could do anything to them that he wanted, blah-blah. Scary as heck.
    The MM has vanished into the mists? You know, I found him touchingly harmless, poor guy. Is there no known way to get someone congenial in there? You & your sister have suffered for years, ever since – if I rightly recall – the New Zealanders folded their tent.
    As for departures, yesterday morning I just about had a massive stroke when I moseyed out into the driveway, craned my neck and saw – OMG!!!!- that the other car was gone! Thank heavens the car was back by last night, so now she keeps him busy as a bee. Can only take one day at a time in this neck of the woods.
    Have to do laundry, then will drive on up to the library to gather the e-mails. Sorry….have fallen by the wayside — meant to get up there yesterday. xxxx Hi to Babz, & pet the Wees.

  9. I agree with Dr. Lavizzo, that this is “one step forward, and two steps back.” The AVMA is stalling. Declawing has been described as amputation in AVMA literature for years. The one good thing is that this announcement shows that the AVMA is responding to the opinion of those who wish to see an end to declawing.

    • Hi Kim, I see the point. I just feel that the AVMA is showing us that they are aware of the anti-declaw campaign and the criticism. I also feel that they are under more pressure than ever to change. People want to see real change – a cessation in declawing – but that won’t happen quickly.

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