American taxpayer should subsidize veterinary training to get rid of declawing

The only reason why three quarters of American veterinarians declaw cats is for money. We all know that. There’s no connection to providing a service to improve the welfare and health of cats. It’s just about money and the convenience that declawing affords the owner who doesn’t want her sofa scratched.

Cornell vet college. Photo: Cornell.

On the basis that veterinarians declaw cats for money and for no other reason, a disincentive to declawing would be to reduce their student debt. If they didn’t have to service a very large student debt there will be less pressure on making money. They could therefore forego the declawing operation which is a big money-spinner.

In October 2018 the Veterinary News website said that a large part of the focus of the AVMA was on addressing the issue of the increased debt burden of new veterinarians. Of the veterinary graduates who have to borrow funds to pay for their education the average debt is US$166,714. My research indicates that the interest rate for student debts in America is somewhere between 5 and 7% (veterinary practice news). This is a big burden to take on at the outset of a career.

If a state like New York want to get rid of declawing in their jurisdiction (as I know they do) rather than trying to pass legislation to ban declawing, which is failing, greater success may be had by part-subsidizing the debt incurred by student veterinarians so that the interest rate was halved or the amount of the debt was halved.

In fact, the state governor and leaders could set up a deal with student veterinarians such that they could obtain a subsidized loan from the state if they contracted to never declawed cats throughout their career as a veterinarian.

Perhaps taxpayers would dislike this and protest against it. There may be a backlash but I think it’s worth a try. There is a gradual awakening that declawing is an aberration in America. Canadian veterinarians, who must be closely aligned to their American counterparts, are quite rapidly entering a situation where declawing will be eradicated from their country. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has decried declawing and as I recall certain provinces have banned it.

This must put pressure on American veterinarians. The game is almost up for them in playing out this ridiculous argument that they should be able to make a decision in conjunction with their client on whether a cat is declawed or not. This is a completely false argument because on every occasion the declawing is for non-therapeutic purposes and simply to save the armrests of sofas.

It staggers me that New York legislators buy into this stupid argument. They can do the right thing now by easing the burden of veterinary student debt and forcing them to never declaw cat again. California and New Jersey have also had Bills pass through their legislature. The veterinarians’ resolve should be weakened by doing a deal on their training debt.

The final point I’d like to make is that in subsidising the cost of vet training the American citizen would be recognising that companion animals have rights and that veterinary medicine is akin to a public service.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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