The AVMA lacks integrity and authority. The AVMA is the American Veterinary Medical Association. Their members are the 100,000 (almost) veterinarians in the USA.
The AVMA are yet again considering revising their policy on the declawing of cats. They want to discuss the revision at the annual convention in July. Some time ago they revised their declawing policy. The revisions make little difference to be honest. The AVMA are toying and wrestling with their de-clawing policy and getting nowhere with it because they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They know declawing is unethical but they can’t upset their members.
The rock is their members who will refuse to stop declawing even if the AVMA tell them to do so because it is too lucrative. The association has no authority over their members. The hard place is the public and people like me and Ruth and the other regular contributors to this website who detest declawing and make their dislike of it known on the Internet and were ever else they can. To the public you can add a growing number of veterinarians in the United States who are positively against this unnecessary operation.
The AVMA is being squeezed by a gradually growing groundswell of anti-declawers and they realise declawing is wrong. And so they juggle with their declawing policy to try and strike the impossible balance between their members versus the growing number of dissenters together with their realisation that it is unethical.
In this fruitless struggle they end up with a pretty meaningless policy which sets the wrong tone and which continues to subtly encourage declawing.
There is only one policy that the AVMA should have in respect of the declawing of cats and that is this:
“The declawing of cats for non-therapeutic reasons is forbidden.”
Instead, the AVMA have come up with this mishmash of a proposal:
- Clarification that onychectomy is a major surgical procedure in cats.
- Acknowledgment that, in addition to potentially transmitting zoonotic diseases, cats with claws may pose increased risks of injury and morbidity for certain owners.
- The revised statement also cautions that such risks should not be generalized to the human population at large but should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Recognition that, while claws contribute to the ability of cats to defend themselves from various threats, cats that are declawed may be safely allowed outdoors if they are appropriately supervised.
There’s one glimmer of light in this proposal and it is this. In the first line they refer to a need to clarify what the operation entails. It is an indication that they admit that their members are misleading the public in not fully informing the public about the severity of the operation, its consequences and complications. And in my opinion, it is also an implied admission that American veterinarians are failing to fully advise their clients on more humane alternatives.
Apparently, the language of the revised policy mirrors existing policies of the American Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners. I don’t think that is very helpful at all. Who cares if these other associations support this draft policy. They are wrong as well.
The director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division states that the committee is trying to achieve a balance. What does that mean? A balance between what? She states that:
“declawing is one of those situations where behavioural issues can become a welfare issue, in which owners have to address the scratching issues or the cat risks relinquishment. This policy does not say you can’t declaw. It does say you need to give serious consideration to when it is or is not appropriate to do so.”
So the proposed changes to the declawing policy change nothing. The AVMA is still ambivalent about it when they should be giving positive and direct instructions not to do it because that is the only way to comply with their oath.
You will note that the director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division refers to possible relinquishment of a cat that is scratching. This is a terrible copout. It is completely inappropriate to say that because there’s never any issues of relinquishment if a cat caretaker is doing his or her duty properly with respect to her cat’s welfare. If the cat scratches furniture then the owner finds a way to deal with that which does not include 10 amputations.
It staggers me that senior people in the AVMA consistently fudge the central issues in this hot debate.