The AVMA is Peddling Backwards With its New Proposed Feline Declaw Policy

Although I’m a blogger and not truly a journalist, I try to remain neutral in order to present both sides of an issue fairly. But when my topic is feline declawing; it’s impossible for me to remain objective.

Cat with claws

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Why does the veterinary profession continue covertly condoning this inhumane and brutal surgery? In my opinion the main reason declaw surgery has not yet been banned in the USA is because it is one of the most lucrative procedures in veterinary practices.

During its April meeting, the AVMA executive Board voted to send four policies to the AVMA House of Delegates to consider at its annual session, July 24-25 in Denver; prior to the AVMA Annual Convention.

My heart sank when I read the proposed changes pertaining to their feline declaw policy. My initial reaction was how swiftly the AVMA is peddling backwards; continuing not to take the crucial steps which would ensure that cats are protected from unnecessary harm.

In his recent article concerning these proposed changes, Michael Broad wrote “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.” This statement is puzzling to me.

In my opinion, if the American Veterinary Medical Association, (AVMA) finds itself in this position, they brought it on themselves. They did it once again by refusing to take a strong stand against feline declawing. Instead they tread lightly, leaving major loopholes to avoid stepping on its members’ toes; avoiding their wrath by not interfering with an extremely lucrative source of income.

If the organization was actually moving forward, they would demand a policy change recommending that unless a compelling medical condition existed, (such as cancer), requiring an amputation of cats’ knuckles; that the surgery should never be performed, because it is otherwise unnecessary. That should be the AVMA’s bottom line.

Instead, the AVMA is proposing a “substantive change” in their declaw policy. It reads “Clarification that onychectomy is a major surgical procedure in cats”. What does this statement mean? How does it differ from the beginning of the AVMA’s 2011 Declaw Policy? It already states that:

“The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy”

…continuing with the essential points veterinarian should be sharing with clients requesting the surgery. I don’t understand how this change can be a “glimmer of light” (as stated by Michael). In my opinion a “glimmer of light” would be “Do not declaw unless a serious medical condition exists”.

“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.”

How does this proposed change eradicate the fact that folks seem not to have any problems living with cats with claws in over 37 countries (e.g. illegal in UK)? Are they telling us that cats with claws really present a huge risk to folks living in the USA?

But what got me screaming out loud was the proposed change that reads:

“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”.

Why can’t the AVMA and its members get it into their heads that cats don’t need their claws only to defend themselves? Since cats walk on their toes, by amputating the last bone of each toe, the cat is then unable to ambulate correctly; often leading to arthritis and other crippling conditions. And is the AVMA going to mandate that every declawed cat is appropriately supervised if let outdoors?

Then there is the everlasting myth that declawing is preferable to rehoming it because the cat is “destructive”. Simply put declawing a cat to prevent damage to belongings, or to prevent an owner from being scratched, is no guarantee that the cat’s home will be preserved. Too many declawed cats are surrendered to shelters due to “unacceptable” behavior. These declawed cats are often considered unadoptable and, as a result a healthy cat is euthanized unnecessarily.

The AVMA states that:

“There is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups.”

…But on-going scientific research is proving otherwise.

Ages ago we thought the world was flat. We have moved on. Perhaps one day in the near future, the AVMA will be sufficiently convinced by the research on feline declawing being done by the Paw Project and the compassionate veterinarians who truly understand cats. Perhaps then the AVMA will be moved enough to a take a strong stand against declawing and their revised declaw policy will reflect it.

Were you outraged by the “new” proposed declaw policy? Tell us in a comment.


Photo credit: Flickr User taa_ter

17 thoughts on “The AVMA is Peddling Backwards With its New Proposed Feline Declaw Policy”

  1. I am outraged by the wooliness of it all!!! It makes no hard, factual statements only ones that skirt and pussy-foot around the issue leaving people in absolutely no doubt that they are scared stiff of upsetting the blood money vets!!!

  2. I hate the “money making” part of it. Not that vets do not deserve to make a decent living with all of the school bills they have to pay, but the cost of vet care is something that makes pets much less affordable than they once were at a time when so many more of them need homes. Inflating those costs by performing harmful procedures seems to me a violation of the Hippo-cat-ic oath.

    • I think that veterinarians could be far more imaginative in dreaming up ways to make money while at the same time prioritising the welfare of their patients. They seem to be very unimaginative and un-businesslike. Perhaps the AVMA should create a department which provides advice on how veterinary clinics/hospitals can be more profitable. Then the vets need not be reliant upon declawing for their bread and butter revenue.

  3. I agree….declawing is an unnecessary procedure unless there is something abnormal about a particular nail or toe. I think the AVMA needs to take a much tougher stand on this issue.

  4. Just like the human “health care” INDUSTRY, the veterinary medical INDUSTRY is just that, and its top priority is MAKING MONEY. Caring for and about living beings has gone by the wayside for us all as far as these INDUSTRIES are concerned.

  5. ‘I am not sure the AVMA is peddling backwards – more sideways trying to find the perfect compromise when a compromise is simply unethical when it comes to a policy on declawing’

    Exactly Michael, there should be no compromise when it comes to the health and fulfilment of cats.
    In my opinion this issue is black and white, no grey areas, declawing is cruel, we who truly love cats didn’t need hard scientific evidence to know that, nor did the declawing vets and the AVMA if the truth be known.
    But for all the evidence and proof being publicised by the Paw Project vets the AVMA still intend to keep this abuse of cats legal.
    This is cowardly and blatant profit above animals welfare and they should be ashamed of not taking a stand like the Paw Project vets and other non declaw vets have.
    They should ban declawing here and now!
    I’ve been unable to get a direct interview with any UK vet yet on what they think about declawing, but messages I’ve had back via their secretaries say in a nutshell that declawing is serious surgery and never has been an option because of the intricate and wonderful anatomy of a cat.

    • In my opinion this issue is black and white, no grey areas

      I agree. This is about veterinary ethics and morality. It is about cat welfare at a most fundamental level. The AVMA still condone non-therapeutic declawing in this statement. Even the most stupid AVMA administrator must realise that their policy statement is unethical. It is a compromise when the issue is clear and black and white as you say Ruth.

        • Yes, I agree. I guess when I mean is this that using and working within the standards of the American Veterinary Medical Association it is a compromise. So what I’m saying is it is a compromise by their low standards but if you measure the policy by absolute standards based on ethics and morality then the whole seedy, disreputable policy should be torn up, throw in the waste bin, and a whole new bunch of people should rewrite it from scratch with the welfare of the domestic cat fully in mind.

    • Exactly, R.
      They’re like motorists weaving in and out of traffic, creating the illusion that they’re exploring different routes; but, their destination is the same.

  6. Thanks for the article, Jo. I’ll try and clarify why I stated that the AVMA are between a rock and a hard place.

    In my opinion, the AVMA realises that they should have a declaw policy that is much tougher and which prevents declawing unless under the most rare and pressing reasons. They know that. They may know that there is a lot of Internet chatter about banning declawing including from some of their members. There are many cat owners who dislike it so there is an increased pressure on them to do the right thing and there is international pressure but…

    They also know that their members, the veterinarians, will not stop declawing cats for the obvious reason that it brings in revenue. And because they have no authority over their members they can neither ban it nor upset their members with a policy which is too harsh on them and which the members will throw out. So they fudge it and arrive at this mishmash.

    I am not sure the AVMA is peddling backwards – more sideways trying to find the perfect compromise when a compromise is simply unethical when it comes to a policy on declawing.

    • Interesting Michael – you put a positive angle on it – which is nice.

      Sorry – have a guest for a week again and was just sick for 3 days straight – guess mid next week things get back to normal again. I always read PoC – just have’t been commenting because of being busy or sick.

        • Thx Ruth – I miss commenting too – it’s the best part but I always read everything usually so I haven’t missed much even while I am lurking in the shadows 🙂

          When I am not around on PoC it’s because something or other is preventing me – usually just time and mental space – it basically means something is wrong – because I’d much rather have a peaceful time where I can take my time to comment on PoC.

          It just seems lately it’s one thing after another. In a week or so I’ll be alone again, and not sick – so I can wind back to normal routine I hope. I’m much happier when I have time and mental and emotional space.


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