Michigan state is debating a ban on declawing. If the legislation is passed Michigan would become the second state after New York to ban declawing. During the New York debate State Assemblyman Clifford Crouch speaking inside the NY state legislature said that a ban on declawing across the state is government overreach. As it happens New York State did ban declawing so the majority agreed that banning declawing statewide is acceptable.
However, the idea of ‘government overreach’ is an argument that needs to be addressed. Crouch cites two reasons why he was against the Bill: vets don’t want a ban and ‘people are very susceptible to infections by cat scratches and things like that’.
His two points are failures. The vets are bound to be against a ban because the operation is bread and butter to them. As to people being susceptible to infections by cat scratches this is a feeble argument. It is a balance between the welfare of 2 species of animal: the cat and the human-animal and not doing a brutal partial amputation of ten toes against people being occasionally scratched. You cannot justify the horror of declawing to prevent the occasional scratch which is often caused by careless cat ownership. Also infections from cat scratches are relatively scarce. What I mean is the percentage of scratches that become infected compared to the total number of scratches is very low.
A study published on the PubMed.gov website concluded:
The incidence of patients discharged from hospitals with a diagnosis of cat scratch disease was between 0.77 and 0.86 per 100,000 population per year. Fifty-five percent of the case patients were 18 years of age or younger. Males accounted for 60% of cases. Incidence varied by season; approximately 60% of case patients were discharged in the months September through January. The estimated incidence of disease in ambulatory patients was 9.3 per 100,000 population per year. On the basis of these rates, we estimated the annual health care cost of the disease to be more than $12 million.
The numbers are low. Infections from scratches are not something which can justify declawing. Standard bacterial infections other than from Bartonella henselae are rarely caused by scratches. Also you can see that young males are most often scratched and get cat scratch disease. This points to people mishandling cats. This is about educating young men and boys on how to handle domestic cats. That’s the way to deal with cat scratch fever, not to brutalise the cat with an horrendous operation.
Crouch completely misses the moral and philosophical dimension of declawing. It is clearly wrong morally because if a person wants to adopt a cat they adopt they whole cat and not a modified version. You don’t buy customised cats like you buy customised cars. That’s not the deal. And philosophically speaking the concept of cat domestication does not include declawing. The deal is that the human takes care of their cat and their cat provides companionship and entertainment. There are no terms and conditions which says that the human has the right to physically, severely injure the cat as a condition of their ‘ownership’ of the cat.
In other words there is no moral right for the human to declaw cats. Legally it is allowed in all states bar New York but this is an aberration in the law because declawing is legalised criminality. That sounds extreme but it it not. If vets did the operation in many countries (35) including the UK they’d end up in the criminal courts on a charge of animal cruelty. That proves the point. America is the odd man out.
It seems to me that Crouch does not know the ins and outs of declawing. He is unaware of the huge number of botched declawing operations for example and the complications that often flow from the operation. The wool has been drawn over his eyes by the vets who are fighting to defend the indefensible. My advise to the politicians voting on declawing bans is to ignore the lobbying of vets. They will lie as they lie to their clients when they understate the negative effects of the operation and misrepresent the severity of the operation. Even the name is a misrepresentation: declawing. This means to remove the claw. It does not. It removes part of the toe from the last knuckle – times ten. It is bloody and bloody painful. It is hell for the cat.
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