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Can you imagine a doctor advocating a procedure that’s not in the best interest of his or her patient? Yet that is the case with declaw surgery, argues The Paw Project, a film documenting the actions of the nonprofit Paw Project to abolish the crippling procedure and rehabilitate felines who have been subjected to it. Suspense builds in the film as bills banning the practice are put to a vote by the legislatures of eight California cities, thanks to the group’s grassroots efforts. Here, Jennifer Conrad, DVM, The Paw Project’s founder and director, responds to questions sparked by watching the film.
In your private practice, one of your clients is the tiger who appeared in The Hangover. Was she declawed? Is declawing a common practice with animals performing for film and TV?
No, she’s not declawed. She was one of the first cats whose life was affected by the anti-declawing education provided by The Paw Project. Her owners decided to leave her with her claws and have not regretted it one bit. She’s been in a lot of movies and is able to run and jump without pain because she still has normal paws. It is now against the law to declaw exotic or wild cats in California and against USDA regulations across the nation.
If alternatives to declawing, like trimming the nails, are so simple and easily available, why does the practice continue for domesticated cats?
Humane alternatives are employed everywhere in the world. Alternatives are simple, but some people—mainly in the U.S. and Canada—still choose declawing. I’d say those people aren’t really thinking about what’s best for the cat. They aren’t thinking about how cats are losing their homes at a rate of two to one due to declawing; because it hurts the declawed cat’s paws to dig in the litter box, the cat stops using the box [causing the owner to surrender the cat to a shelter]. And those people aren’t thinking about how human health is more threatened by the declawed cat that has to bite because it’s been robbed of its primary defense, its claws.
Do you foresee any change in the American Veterinary Medical Association’s support of declawing domesticated cats?
I think the AVMA will change eventually because of public pressure and because I think they know it’s the right thing to do. But if they thought about it and they changed their policy now, they’d be leaders instead of reactors. They could actually lead the campaign to ban declawing.