I’m pleased to report that some veterinarians on Prince Edward Island (which is a province of Canada) are considering ending the practice of declawing of cats on the entire island.
It is unusual and indeed quite surprising that veterinarians are taking the initiative to stop the declawing of cats on this island because up until now, in North America, it has been politicians who have made the moves against this obnoxious veterinary habit. All previous cessations of declawing in certain towns (8 in Calif) in North America were due to bans made effective by law.
On Prince Edward Island, a veterinarian, Dr Claudia Lister, working at New Perth Animal Hospital has made it clear that she, for one, no longer declaws cats and she is involved in steps to stop the practice across the entire island. She deserves to be applauded. It takes a bit of courage to do that because as we know veterinarians make quite a lot of money out of declawing for nontherapeutic purposes.
Dr Lister says:
“If you were relating it to your own finger you would actually be removing your finger at this first knuckle… And then expected to walk on those toes. So it definitely is a more involve surgery.”
If you want to describe the operation in harsh but realistic layman’s language it is the brutal amputation of the ends of the 10 toes on the forelegs of the domestic cat causing enormous pain despite massive amounts of painkillers and sometimes it causes problems to the cat’s gait and behaviour due, in part, to a botched operation and shards of bone being left in the paws and complications. It is not “declawing” (implying removal of the claw only). It is “amputation” of the last segment of bone of the toe. Declawing can also be a threat to people.
Dr Lister brought forward a resolution to discuss the ending of declawing on the island at the AGM of the Veterinary Medical Association. Unsurprisingly, a decision to end the practice was not made at that meeting but it was agreed that new guidelines would be drawn up for the surgery which I presume means that the guidelines will be tougher with the intention of trying to prevent veterinarians from doing the operation for the wrong reasons. Although, in the past, in America, the toughening up of guidelines made no difference whatsoever to the attitude and behaviour of veterinarians towards this operation. Guidelines from veterinary associations carry little if any weight.
The new guidelines will insist that the veterinarian discusses the matter with his client and that there be a record of the discussion to show that the client was counselled about the procedure and that alternatives were explored. There are many alternatives to declawing which are often not discussed by veterinarians.
The usual reaction from the island’s veterinarians who like to declawed cats is that if they put their clients off from declawing a cat for nontherapeutic purposes they are concerned that the client will then have their cat euthanised or choose not to own a cat at all which would lead to more unwanted cats. That’s the classic argument. It does not hold up because although initially there may be that sort of reaction, in the long term you will get far more better cat caretakers looking after cats and there will therefore be less unwanted cats. This is about long-term thinking which is the only way forward.
Dr Lister quite rightly says that this is a harmful and unnecessary surgery and I would predict that as both veterinarians and clients will talk about this more, there will come a time when it will end. This is the beginning of the end for declawing on this island and I would hope that that attitude spreads to the remainder of Canada and thereafter to America. It will take a long time though.