Nova Scotia becomes first province to ban declawing of domestic cats
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has become the first province to ban medically unnecessary cat declawing, part of a worldwide movement against the practice.
The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association decided Tuesday to amend its code of ethics to make the practice of elective and non-therapeutic declawing ethically unacceptable.
It will come into effect on March 15, 2018, following a three-month education period.
Dr. Frank Richardson, registrar of the association, said the decision follows years of discussion by veterinarians, surveys, public input, and a recent statement from the national association.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association strengthened its stand against declawing domestic cats in March, saying the practice causes unnecessary and avoidable pain.
Vets’ groups in many other provinces are having active discussions on the issue, Richardson said: “It’s on everybody’s radar.”
Richardson said while declawing was popular 20 years ago, fewer and fewer veterinarians have been willing to perform the procedure.
“The number is getting smaller and smaller each year. I think if we did nothing it would die off on its own,” he said.
Dr. Hugh Chisholm, a retired veterinarian who has been pushing for the change, said while some municipalities have enacted regulations against declawing, Nova Scotia becomes the first province or state in North America to declare the practice unethical.
“It’s a great day. I’m so proud of the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association,” said Chisholm, Atlantic Canada director for the Paw Project.
“You are amputating 10 bones from 10 digits on the paws of a cat, and if that doesn’t constitute mutilation, I don’t know what does,” he said.
The practice has already been banned in the U.K., Europe, Australia and several California cities. New Jersey is considering a law that would ban the practice unless a vet decides the operation is medically necessary.
“Now that we have this success in Nova Scotia, I will be contacting the other provincial veterinary associations to encourage them to do the same thing. I think it’s just a matter of time,” Chisholm said.
For years some pet owners have had their cats declawed to prevent scratches to furniture, people and other pets. But the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association says scratching is normal behaviour that cats use to mark territory, help with balance, climb and defend themselves.
Chisholm said there will still be cases where declawing will be medically necessary.
“Those would be very rare cases, but yes if it is in the cat’s best interest to have a claw removed or a few claws removed because of trauma or infection, then yes it is the right thing to do. To do it because you’re worried your sofa is going to get picked or scratched is just wrong,” Chisholm said.
— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.
The Canadian Press
Dr. Evan Antin hails from Kansas City, Kansas where he grew up spending the majority of his childhood in search of native wildlife including snakes, turtles and insects. He went on to study evolutionary and ecological biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and spent multiple semesters abroad in Australia and Tanzania to learn more about their respective ecosystems and fauna.
In addition to his love for cats and dogs, Dr. Antin’s passions lie in exotic animal medicine and interacting with exotic animals in their native habitats around the world. For more than a decade Dr. Antin has made an effort to seek opportunities to work with wildlife on a domestic and international level to include locations such as Central America, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Eastern and Southern Africa, South East Asia and a variety of North American ecosystems. The accumulation of Dr. Antin’s hands-on experience with exotic animals has prepared him exceptionally with their handling, husbandry, and enrichment. He is capable of caring for small, delicate animals; large, dangerous animals; and of course our beloved household dogs & cats with ease and confidence.
Dr. Antin has been happily employed as a full time associate at CVVH directly following his graduation from Colorado State’s veterinary school in 2013. Since then he’s developed clinical medical & surgical skills to help provide the right care for the dogs, cats, exotics and wildlife of the Conejo Valley.
Dr. Antin currently lives near Calabasas, California with his dog, Henry, his cat, Willy, his savannah monitor lizard, mangrove snake and an assortment of tropical freshwater fish. Other hobbies of his include traveling, scuba diving, snowboarding, hiking, and weightlifting.
International Cat Care has released a position statement on the declawing of cats which calls for the procedure to be banned. The charity, together with its veterinary division the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), considers the declawing of cats for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons to be an act of mutilation, and to be unethical. Although already illegal in many countries, this procedure is still a surprisingly common practice in some, where it is performed electively to stop cats from damaging furniture, or as a means of avoiding scratches. The operation to declaw does not just remove the claw, but also the end bone of the toe (equivalent to removing the end of a finger to the first joint in humans).
The newly released position statment follows on from brand new research in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (JFMS)*, which shows that declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain in cats. Previous research had focused on short-term issues following surgery, such as lameness, chewing of toes and infection, but the long-term health effects of this procedure had not been investigated.
This new research shows that declawing increases long-term pain in cats, leading to behavioural changes such as increased biting behaviour, inappropriate urination or defecation, over-grooming and aggression. As a result of ongoing pain from declawing, cats will often choose a soft surface, such as carpet for toileting, in preference to the gravel-type substrate in the litter box; and a painful declawed cat may react to being touched by resorting to biting as it has few or no claws left to defend itself with. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviours are common reasons for cats ending up in a rehoming centre), but also has health implications for their human companions, as cat bites can be serious.
In addition, the study highlighted that a declawed cat was also almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than a non-declawed cat (potentially due to shortening of the declawed limb and altered gait, and/or chronic pain at the site of the surgery causing altered weight bearing).
Scratching is a normal and important feline behaviour, associated with territorial marking as well as being an important means of defence. Should scratching or clawing in the home become an issue, cat owners can provide appropriate resources (such as scratching posts, cardboard boxes, etc.) and encourage cats, via positive reinforcement (use of treats, cat nip, synthetic scratching pheromone etc.), to use these for scratching instead. Declawing for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons is totally inappropriate and unethical, and should never be carried out as a means of controlling unwanted scratching behaviour.
To access iCatCare’s position statement on declawing click here. Link
Our full press release covering the scientific research, including free access to the JFMS article, can be accessed here. Link
Dr. Rachel Fuentes
Like This Page · November 4 · Edited ·
This my friends is one of the many reasons declawing cats has fallen out of favor. During the onychectomy (declaw procedure) it is possible to leave a small amount of viable tissue, which is exactly what happened here. This cat was declawed 12 years prior, but the dewclaw (“thumb area”) regrew under the skin and wasn’t noticed until recently. I was able to remove the offending nail and tissue with success, but this really adds a face (or foot) to the issues with declawing. The downsides far outweigh the benefit for this procedure. Let me know if you have any questions!