(AOL News: September 8th) — Officials in San Francisco are considering whether to ban declawing cats on the grounds that the procedure is cruel. But the idea has run into opposition from a surprising source: the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that while the group opposes declawing, it worries that a ban would result in more cats being abandoned or put to death.
San Francisco officials are considering banning declawing cats, a practice that has been outlawed in at least one other U.S. city.
Some pet owners have their cats declawed to stop them from damaging furniture. The surgery involves removing the claws and the last bone of each toe. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is considering a measure that would bar the operation except in cases of medical necessity.
“It comes down to animal cruelty and mutilating an animal for the convenience of its guardian,” said Sally Stephens, president of the city’s Animal Welfare Commission, in an interview with the Chronicle.
But Mark Nunez, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association, told the newspaper that his group doesn’t want lawmakers making decisions about medical procedures.
“We don’t believe medical management procedures should be made by city council members. They should be made by professionals,” Nunez said.
Kristin DeJournett, a cruelty caseworker for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said she doesn’t believe that a ban would trigger an increase in abandonded cats.
“Declawed cats are more often found in shelters and get passed from home to home,” DeJournett told AOL News. She said declawing can lead to behavior problems, making cats more prone to biting because they feel insecure. They may also avoid their litter boxes because they feel the need to mark their territory and because the litter is uncomfortable on their paws.
“We’re all for any legislation banning declawing,” DeJournett said.
John Snyder, a vice president with the Human Society of the United States, told AOL News his organization opposes declawing unless a cat is in an “absolute life or death situation.” But he declined to comment on the San Francisco proposal, saying he didn’t know enough about the specifics.
Another California city, West Hollywood, banned declawing in 2003. The California Veterinary Medical Association challenged the law, but the state Court of Appeal upheld it.
John Duran, the West Hollywood City Council member who led the push for the ban, said his city hasn’t seen a surge in abandoned cats since the law took effect.
“That’s a red herring,” he told AOL News. “We have not seen an uptick in cats being abandoned, or feral cats living in neighborhoods. People continue to adopt cats.”
Duran is interested in the issue because he had one of his pets declawed 20 years ago, a decision he came to regret. The cat became skittish and stopped using its litter box. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.
Duran hopes bans on declawing will be common some day.
“I think a lot of this is about public education,” Duran said. “To try to change the animal to make us more comfortable, we just consider that inhumane.”