Prosecuting Vets and Clients For Declawing Cats

by Michael
(London, UK)

State prosecutors won’t file charges against veterinarians for the crime of animal abuse when declawing cats. Have you ever wondered why a veterinarian and their human client (the cat’s “owner”) get away with mutilating cats in the USA, when declawing them? I have. I am shocked. If two people, neither of whom was a veterinarian conspired to amputate the last phalange of all the toes of a cat’s forepaws for their convenience it would be a crime in the USA. I have randomly, selected the state of Oregon to argue my case. In Oregon such an act would be a crime under statutory provision number 167.315 (2008). Here are the actual words:

OR. REV. STAT. § 167.315 (2008). Animal abuse in the second degree.
(1) A person commits the crime of animal abuse in the second degree if, except as otherwise authorized by law, the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to an animal, (2) Any practice of good animal husbandry is not a violation of this section, (3) Animal abuse in the second degree is a Class B misdemeanour.
{Note: it must be irrelevant that the vet amputates the last phalange of the toe with skill etc. (some don’t!) as the cat is left with a severe physical injury after the operation.}

It might well be a more serious crime but for the sake of this argument I will stick with the least serious crime.

Taking, therefore, one state of the United States, Oregon, the state prosecutors of Oregon could file charges against almost any of the veterinarians of the state of Oregon for animal abuse/cruelty as nearly all of of them declaw cats for non-therapeutic reasons. They could also prosecute the cat’s owner. The prosecutors should prosecute as they have a duty to do so but they will not. The same scenario, I say exists across much of America and Canada. Why don’t they prosecute vets? The answer is found in the “exemptions” to the above 167.315 clause. The following are the exact words, that on face of it, let the vets off the hook (the relevant section is in bold):

OR. REV. STAT. § 167.335 (2008). Exemption from ORS 167.315 to 167.333
Unless gross negligence can be shown, the provisions of ORS 167.315 to 167.333 do not apply to:(6) Animals subject to good veterinary practices as described in ORS 686.030;

So, if the vet is practicing “good veterinary practices” when he or she declaws a cat, they are exempt from being prosecuted under the criminal code of Oregon, USA. What does clause ORS 686.030 say, exactly. Here it is:

Oregon legislation law on animal abuse

The clause in my opinion says no more or less than briefly summarise what vets do. It does not describe “good veterinary practice”. This clause therefore needs to be qualified and clarified and the best way to do that (to allow an accurate interpretation) is to read it in conjunction with the vet’s oath. The vet’s oath makes it clear that the vet must protect animal health and welfare and prevent and relieve animal suffering. The vet promises to practice their profession in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. On that basis declawing cannot be considered as a good veterinary practice as it is in breach of their oath. Declawing as we know is for the benefit of the person and against the health interests of the cat. Accordingly, I argue that the procedure of cat declawing falls outside of the veterinarian exception to the criminal code relating to animal cruelty. The vet could and should be prosecuted.

The criminal code of Oregon allows licensed veterinary technicians to report to the police or humane society examples of animal abuse in preparation for prosecution proceedings (ref” § 686.445 (2008)). The person reporting abuse is immune from criminal or civil liability.

The door is therefore open for a conscientious vet tech to report a vet for declawing and ask the police to charge the vet and the prosecution service to prosecute the vet.

It should be noted that individuals cannot bring private prosecutions in the United States as I understand it1.

Before I finish this article, I would like to return to the vet’s client, the person who pays the vet to do the declawing. They are not except from being prosecuted for animal cruelty under the Oregon legislation. As they pay a person to do the abuse aren’t they criminally liable?

If I have missed something please tell me. Is there someone out there in Oregon who can either (a) report declawing to the police or (b) tell me if and why I am wrong?

In an earlier post I said that cats need animal advocates to enforce the law. I argued in that post that the consent of the cat’s owner prevented a prosecution. I am sure that is part of the problem why vets and clients are nor charged with animal cruelty.



Michael Avatar

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Prosecuting Vets and Clients For Declawing Cats

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Jan 22, 2011 They should all be prosecuted
by: Anonymous

The entire staff of declawing clinics should be prosecuted.
Even if they don’t take part in the surgery they are condoning it by working there.
The client should be prosecuted also.
What kind of an evil person pays someone to do painful cosmetic surgery on their cat?
They have no excuse because they must know how much it would hurt to have their own nails removed.
Cats have as much right as people,dogs,or any other animal to keep their claws.

Dec 24, 2010 Its a crime
by: Edward

Man I know nothing about American politics but I often do wonder how the vets get away with committing what is a crime in other countries.
And what about the client,I mean if I paid someone else to hurt my cat Id expect them and me to be punished if I was found out wouldnt I?
But Id deserve to be punished and couldnt complain if I was.
Not that I would ever do that of course as I love cats and would never hurt them or have someone else them hurt on purpose.
So I think vets and clients should be punished.
I cant get my head around why people are so cruel as to want to take cats claws away man.
All the best to everyone here who really does love cats.

Dec 24, 2010 The cats are the innocent victims
by: Anonymous

I agree.
It is not the public who are the innocent victims Jo Singer it is the cats.
I say prosecute everyone who is involved in de-clawing from the clerk who books the cat in to the assistant who holds up the cats paws to the doctor who axes or sears off the cats toes.

They are ALL guilty of gross cruelty.

Dec 24, 2010 Clients are to blame too
by: Vera

I saw this on facebook and have read the comments here with great interest.

Good posts apart from the know it all vet student and the previous post which was good apart from this ….

As far as prosecuting vets and clients for declawing cats is concerned, I don’t agree with this concept to be perfectly honest….

Now what sort of person would be persuaded to hand their cat over to have its claws removed?
The very concept of taking them away is alien and I’m sorry but the ignorance of clients is no excuse.
There can’t be a sane person in this world who doesn’t know cats have claws so you don’t like claws you DON’T GET A CAT.
NO dedicated cat lover would ever think of having this procedure done and NO dedicated cat lover would let a doctor talk them into it.

There is NO EXCUSE and I agree with Michael the doctor and the client should be prosecuted for the deliberate and cruel abuse of animals.

Dec 24, 2010 To the Budding Veterinary Student
by: Jo Singer

Several things to say here. First of all you have no idea if anyone who is responding is, in fact a Feline Health Literate Vet who has taken the time to do their research about what cats need to be healthy and whole! You may be one of the “lucky” folks whose cats seem to be “fine”, but you have no idea what the future may bring.

1. Declawed cats, as they age, and struggle to walk correctly, on their amputated paws, often develop arthritis and other crippling conditions.

2.IF cats didn’t need claws, they would not have arrived from the factory equipped with the essential tools that were provided them. Since there are no health benefits to this brutal and inhumane surgery, you cannot equate it to neutering and spaying, for which we all know there are many, many benefits, not only including
population control. WHAT health benefit does a cat receive from amputating the last digit on their paws? If there is, please, as an “expert” on cats, do illuminate us. Ignorant owners are the only ones that derive “benefits” from declawing their cats.

You say that this is a decision that should be made between owner and vet, but in the majority of cases clients can’t make a fully informed decision since they don’t know better. Most veterinarians don’t take the time to disclose the extent of or the methods that are used to amputate these digits. Vets should fully disclose AND provide all the information about alternatives and have these items on sale at their clinics.

As far as prosecuting vets and clients for declawing cats is concerned, I don’t agree with this concept to be perfectly honest. The public MUST be fully informed about what is entailed, as often they are the innocent victims of fee-hungry practitioners.

Instead I suggest that folks who seek competent and compassionate veterinary care for their cats and know about the many inherent dangers which accompany declaw surgery should not only decide NOT become a client at a clinic they feel is not providing compassionate care, and help spread the word about how declawing is never necessary. With all the excellent and highly effective alternatives available, this surgery actually belongs in the “dark ages” of medical practice.

There are many veterinarians in the United States that refuse to declaw. They are the beacons of light in this field of the healing arts.

So maybe you should spend some time interning with vets that do not do this procedure. Actually they are very successful and their incomes reflect this.

Dec 24, 2010 Worrying
by: Anonymous

If Kellina is typical of vet students then we need to be very worried about the welfare of our cats in the USA.
Something drastic needs to be done to stop the wholesale mutilating of cats.
A prosecution of a declawing doctor and a client must be made and must be successful.

Dec 24, 2010 declawing cats should be a crime
by: Janet Macdonald

Has anyone of you ever had a operation? When your in recovery at home or hospital, your still in pain right? You get to take pills for the pain ,you know how much you need and when to take it or you can tell someone about it.
Cats can not tell you that they are in pain.So after they have this operation dont you think they are in pain too. Watch any cat after its been fixed they have a hard time to get around for a day or too ,why? because they had a operation and are in pain. I had been given a cat ,years ago, that had been declawed ,the poor baby got outside on me and hid in the woods. There was no way for it to defend for itself etc. He hated to have anyone touch his toes either.
I think vets who do this cruelty to cats should be charged big time. Its very wrong and hurtful!

Dec 23, 2010 Anesthesia Does NOT Make It OK
by: Kathleen

One problem we face in getting people in the US to recognize the cruelty inherent in declawing is the fact that people in this country seem to think that just because a cat is anesthetized during the surgery, that makes it acceptable. We are a nation that looks for a chemical solution to nearly every problem nowadays, and I believe most Americans have no real idea how dangerous anesthesia is in and of itself. I’ve seen people make online comments such as “I don’t agree with declawing, but at least sedatives are used and it’s better than the alternative.” Evidently people like this have never had surgery themselves and cannot understand how pain can still exist when the anesthesia wears off, and evidently they are not aware that the deep sedation necessary for surgery takes an organism, human or animal, “to the edge of death”, as one vet I worked with explained it to me. If a living creature is being deliberately taken to “the edge of death”, then it should not be done lightly or for ANY reason other than to correct a life-threatening and GENUINE medical condition. It should not be done to protect furniture.

Dec 23, 2010 Vets who declaw should be jailed
by: Michele S.

I’d dearly love to see declawing made illegal in both the USA and Canada – just as it is in the majority of countries. What a sad indicator of a society that condones animal abuse by vets.

I’d really hoped it was only old-fashioned vets with little knowledge of animal behaviour who promoted what is purely an elective surgery. Yet the post from Kellina shows I was wrong. Heaven help the animals admitted into your “care”. I’m horrified that you say there’s nothing wrong with declawing. How can the amputation of healthy toes for owner convenience ever be considered right? S

Thank goodness the professionals (already qualified vets) in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries refuse to abuse animals in this way. It gives me peace of mind knowing that my cats have a vet who is more concerned about their patients welfare than boosting their bank balance performing cruel and unnecessary surgery.

Dec 23, 2010 YES
by: Jojo

Kellyna you are training for the wrong profession if you condone the above suffering.

Yes Micheal,without a doubt the vets and the clients should be prosecuted.

Dec 23, 2010 Ignorance is bliss
by: Kath

Ignorance is bliss so they say but it won’t do for Kellina to remain in her ignorance because living feeling creatures will be relying on her expertise to care for their health.
That thought fills me with trepidation because it will take more than a year for her to gain enough knowledge to be trusted with the welfare of peoples pets.
One year to go and using the word fixed,that doesn’t bode well.One year to go and thinks declawing is OK,so OK in fact that her own 4 cats are living their lives as adapted animals,not as healthy cats.
What a shame!
Michael has showed her up utterly and completely with his expertise on cats,he doesn’t need to have qualified as a professional,in fact his knowledge of cats puts that childish student to shame.

Kellina you can learn everything you need to know on PoC about declawing,give it a go and keep up with other young would be vets who will be refusing to do this disgustingly cruel procedure.

Dec 23, 2010 Empty vessels make the most noise
by: Barbara

I agree, this is a really good article Michael and I’d like to suggest that unless there is a successful prosecution in the meantime we look out for “doctor” kellina gaining her qualification, it’s obvious from the hot air she is blowing that she intends to be one of the declaw pimps who take money to disable cats. And as the title of my comment says,I believe she thinks she knows a heck of a lot more than she actually does. I pity the animals she practises on because she has demonstrated a complete ignorance of the implications of declawing and has shown that she is without compassion because she has put her own cats through this mutilation. If with only one year of study left to do she is still using layman’s terminology like “fixed” I fear she still has an awful lot to learn.

Kellina dear, why don’t you consider a career change? Have you considered road sweeping?

Barbara avatar

Dec 23, 2010 Hoping for a prosecution
by: Mel

Michael,that is what is needed,a prosecution.
I hope it does happen.
A crime in one country is surely a crime in all countries.American cats feel no less pain or fear than cats in countries where declawing is illegal.The difference is that declawing doctors choose to ignore that pain and fear,it is certainly not that they do not know how much cats suffer.

So you are in college Kellina and only a year away from being a vet.
What a lot of work you will need to put in for that year to learn the basics about cats.
4 cats deliberately disabled,are you frightened of a tiny scratch?Did you not know cats have claws?Yes they do and that is because claws are esential to their health.
There you have learned something from a non professional.
Maybe you should have stuck to soft toys instead of ruining the lives of sentient beings.
Hopefuly by the time you qualify …or as someone else said if you ever do qualify…declawing will be banned as the abuse of cats it is.

Dec 23, 2010 To Kellina
by: CJ

So you think that your 4 cats going through this was acceptable do you?

I bet you can hardly wait to inflict that yourself on helpless cats when you are a vet seeing as you put your own through it.
But you didn’t see them like that or like this did you…

Usually vets can do the evil deed and walk away leaving their minnions the vet techs to clean up the blood and throw away the healthy body parts cut or burned off.
But now you’ve had a preview of the pain and misery you will cause if you break your oath to harm no animal.

You’ve wasted your time writing your misguided rubbish Kellina,no one here is liable to take the slightest bit of notice of a nut such as you.

Dec 23, 2010 Kellina you are the nut
by: Rose

Kellina you are not a doctor either and far from professional too.
In your final year and talking about cats being fixed.
Even we ordinary mortals know the word neutered.
What a lot you have to learn.
If you think anyone will take any notice of your biased ignorance,you need to think again.
There are people here with much knowledge about cats and who have done years of research on declawing.You have only made yourself look like the nut you accuse us of being.
If I was you I’d change my course as you haven’t taken much in about animals and their needs and their welfare.
You haven’t succeeded in belittling Micheal’s article if that’s what you hoped for,you’ve only given us the chance to show you up for what you are.
Your four crippled cats says it all.

Dec 23, 2010 You are the nut Kellina
by: Carol

Coming along making a fool of yourself on a very well written article,how very silly of you.
You say you have four healthy loving DECLAWED cats,happy,healthy and spoiled.
Yes they are spoiled,but not nice spoiled,oh no, their health is spoiled for life because you paid someone to amputate their healthy toe ends.
Now why did you do that?Did ALL four have VERY serious scratching behaviour that you had a supposedly last resort operation done to them?
Or did you not even bother buying them scratching posts?
Don’t tell me you had them crippled as little kittens,that they didn’t have the chance to use their neccesary claws?Are you one of the ignorant selfish’owners’who put kittens through double surgery being’fixed’and their toe ends amputated at the same time?
Poor poor cats,you shouldn’t be allowed to have them.
I thought people studying to be vets loved animals and wanted to help them?
We are so not impressed that you are in college and a year off being a vet.But we are worried about the animals of the future who you will have power over.
Declawing done correctly and under the supervision of a vet?
Pardon me if I’m wrong but I thought only qualified vets were allowed to perform surgery?
Oh dear another law broken!
Now go and play with fluffy toy animals dear until you grow up enough to see reality.

Dec 23, 2010 Another brilliant article
by: Ruth

Thank you Michael for another brilliant well informed article which shows the depth of your research on declawing, your knowledge and your compassion for cats.
I agree with all you say and hopefully soon someone will be brave enough to come forward and prosecute a declawing vet and the client he/she mutilated the cat for.
I think maybe one of the wonderful vet techs who know the truth as they have seen it with their own eyes, will be thinking enough is enough, we must not only educate about this abuse, we must stop it.

Kellina,you need to go back to year one of your course and learn about the anatomy of a cat. Even as a lowly vet nurse (tech to you) I know that cats are digitigrade (that means they walk on their toes like a ballerina) and they need their claws not only for self defence but for balance and exercise too. Maybe you don’t know that as well as the other mental and physical problems cats often develop from declawing, they almost always develop painful arthritis in later life.
Your cats are NOT healthy Kellina, they are disabled. You say too that they were fixed, were they broken ? Oh I take it you mean neutered ….God help any animals you are let loose on when (IF) you qualify.
You aren’t the same final year student who ‘advised’ holding down a ‘bad cat’ to punish him, until he whimpered are you ? A cat that was declawed and started to bite, as some do you know having lost their first defence. But you probably don’t know that as you don’t know much at all.
I hope you will do lots of research and lots of studying. I’m heartily sorry for any cat who you ‘treat’ in the future !! But hopefully the practice unlucky enough to employ you will have decent vet techs who will help you when you struggle with real cases and educate you as to the aftermath of declawing.
The vets in our country never declawed cats even when it was legal. We may not be vets but they ARE.
It’s premeditated animal abuse Kellina and it’s a crime in many countries and in cities in California and millions of people know this now.
I advise you to keep a very close eye on your disabled cats and when (if) you qualify, to stick to the oath you will take to ’cause no suffering’

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Dec 21, 2010 Re: “You People Are Not Doctors”
by: To Kellina

Kellina, I may not have a veterinary degree, but I have worked in the veterinary industry for the better part of a decade (as long or longer than you have been in college and/or vet school, I might add), and I have assisted with declaw surgeries and their bloody, horrifying aftermath, and I know what I am talking about when I say that declawing is nothing more than socially acceptable animal abuse. It’s sad to note that even as a student, you evidently have already acquired the arrogance common to surgeons in Western medicine- the arrogance that says “we can fix any damage we might do”. It would be so much better both in human medicine and in veterinary medicine if more care would be taken to FIRST, DO NO HARM, as all so-called “healers” are supposed to vow. Having a medical degree does not make you a god on earth, and I am sick of the people who have such degrees looking down from their ivory towers on the rest of us who do not. It doesn’t take a degree to know right from wrong, or to recognize pain and suffering in a helpless creature. You say you have several declawed cats who are happy, and I will not try to dispute that because I do not know your cats, and additionally, I am aware that there are some cats who are lucky and recover better than others, but people need to stop using these lucky individuals as justification for a procedure that is INHERENTLY INHUMANE. Some women are brutally raped and recover well from that and go on to live long, happy, normal lives. Is that a good justification for rape?

Dec 20, 2010 It is YOU Missy who are nuts!
by: Leah (England)

You are right about one thing Kellina your cats ARE spoiled because you took them to a butcher to have healthy limbs amputated! You have taken a perfect creature who needs claws for many reasons and SPOILED them for the rest of their lives! How do you know they are healthy? How old are they? Will you have them xrayed in a few years to check out the damage to their joints? Damage that YOU have inflicted?

God help any cats that find themselves in your fully qualified hands! Did you see your cats bleeding and in agony after the surgery? No? Then you don’t know what they went through do you? If the answer is yes than your less of a human being than I first thought because you saw what you put them through and you still think its ok!

Banned in 38 countries because its inhumane! banned in 8 states of America because its INHUMANE! What part of that don’t you understad Kellisa?

Dec 20, 2010 You people are nuts
by: Kellina

I have four healthy, loving DECLAWED cats. They are also all fixed. They are happy, healthy and spoiled. There is NOTHING wrong with declawing cats if it is correctly and under the supervision of a vet. Im in college and only a year away of being a vet myself. You people are not doctors leave the professional opinions up to the professionals.

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