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Legality of Banning Cat Declawing to Be Studied

January 22, 2003|Nita Lelyveld | Times Staff Writer

The West Hollywood City Council condemned the practice of declawing cats and voted unanimously Tuesday to look into the legality of becoming the first American city to ban the practice.

Councilman John Duran, who has proposed the ban, said he has declawed his own cats in the past to prevent them from scratching his furniture. But his views changed when he was approached by the Paw Project, a group that describes declawing as "painful and crippling" and wants to see it stopped.

"It's the equivalent of removing a knuckle off of a human finger. Had I known that, I would have sought alternatives," Duran said. He said "guardians," as those with pets are now officially described in West Hollywood, can trim their cats' claws or put vinyl tips on them.

Duran said a ban would be the first step in giving the concept of guardianship substance.

Cats scratch to mark territory, stretch, slough off old nail husks and defend themselves. Declawing, or onychectomy, is the removal of the first joint of each toe in a cat's paw. City Council members said they had received numerous e-mails and faxes from around the world, mostly supporting the ban.

"This procedure is done by most people just for the convenience of the caretakers," said Jennifer McClure, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

But Ruth Goldstein of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that although her organization opposes declawing, "It's really not that cut and dried."

"We don't suggest it as a first method of controlling a cat.... But if the alternative is to dump a cat off at a shelter or euthanize it, we'll declaw," Goldstein said.

West Hollywood veterinarian Mark Hiebert of TLC Medical Center said his office sees hundreds of cats, but declaws only two or three a month, using laser surgery.

"We consider declawing a viable alternative, if done humanely, to ensure that these cats have good homes," he said.

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