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Council bans declawing of cats

Friday, March 5, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

City Council has voted unanimously to ban the declawing of cats, a move also adopted by many other cities, states and countries to protect cats from a practice widely seen as damaging to the animals.

“Declawing is a painful and unnecessary surgical procedure in which the cat’s toes are amputated at the last joint, often causing lifelong health and behavioral issues,” Austin Pets Alive! explained in a statement celebrating the decision.

The ordinance will make it illegal to declaw a cat unless the procedure is deemed medically necessary, and establishes a fine for those who flout the law.

Cat owners have used the procedure to protect furniture and themselves from scratches. Once common, the practice is falling by the wayside as more and more veterinarians and cat owners realize the harm it causes. Cats can be trained not to scratch humans and disposable cat nail caps have been developed as a safe and non-surgical alternative for those who worry about the furniture.

According to Austin Pets Alive!, the declawing procedure “involves cutting through bones, tendons and ligaments, and in addition to being incredibly painful in the moment, has lifelong consequences for the cat.” Cats often develop chronic pain and changes in posture, and “removing their primary defense tool” can result in a cat who feels “vulnerable and afraid.” The procedure can also make cats prone to biting instead and avoiding the litter box, rendering them less desirable as pets and more likely to be euthanized.

The Austin ban has been in the works since 2017, when the Animal Advisory Commission set up working groups to discuss the issue. In 2018, the commission voted unanimously to recommend a declawing ordinance. Austin follows other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver.

Brenda Barnette, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, wrote a letter of support to Austin City Council. LA’s declawing law, she said, did not result in disgruntled owners sending a “deluge of cats” into shelters, and the number of cat adoptions from shelters remained steady. The law also proved “self-enforceable,” with no declawing reported since the law was enacted in 2009.

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