Island vets urge education and options over cat declawing

Requests for elective declawing have become more rare on the Island but the P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association says it has no plans for a ban following Nova Scotia's announcement this week that it would make the practice illegal.

'If they quit asking for it, there's no need to ban,' says veterinary association registrar

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association announced on Tuesday that it will ban declawing, effective March 2018. (John Robertson/CBC)

Requests for elective declawing have become more rare on the Island but the P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association says it has no plans for a ban following Nova Scotia's announcement this week that it would make the practice illegal. 

Cat declawing has been a topic of heated debate across the country for a number of years. 

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association announced on Tuesday that it will ban elective and non-therapeutic declawing, effective in March 2018. 

'Rare circumstances'

But the PEIVMA says a ban is not in its plans. Association registrar Gary Morgan said declawing has already become much less common on the Island, thanks to public education.

"In the last 10 years, requests by clients to have the procedure done have dropped precipitously," said Morgan. 

 "And so we're now at a point where it's only happening in those rare situations where the owner, in consultation with their veterinarian just cannot see another avenue in order to deal with a situation."

Veterinarian Gary Morgan has seen the number of cat declawing procedures on the Island fall over the past number of years. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Morgan said about 30 cats were declawed on P.E.I. in 2017.

The veterinarians at Southport Animal Hospital no longer perform declawing procedures.

They stopped offering the service about three years ago, based on a personal decision by staff.

Morgan said he believes fewer than half of the Island's 11 small animal veterinary clinics continue to offer the procedure. 

'No need to ban'

The provincial Animal Welfare Act released earlier this year bans several cosmetic procedures for pets, such as tail docking and ear cropping, but does not include declawing.

Two years ago the veterinary association debated whether it should ban the procedure.

It formed a committee to research the issue further. Ultimately, the association, on advice from the committee, decided to focus on public education to decrease the frequency of declawing, rather than an outright ban. 

"We've always felt that by educating clients and making them aware of the difficulties and the consequences of the surgery, that if they quit asking for it, there's no need to ban," said Morgan.

Other options available

The P.E.I. Humane Society has historically opposed declawing, saying it can cause pain and suffering.

It says there are other options available to deter scratching.

"Things like scratching posts, making sure that your cat has enrichment in their lives," said spokeswoman Jennifer Harkness.

"So, playing with wands, have toys to play, have lots of scratching options available. There's spray that … can deter them from scratching different parts of your furniture."

Morgan said that the declawing procedure can lead to balance, mobility and psychological issues in cats. (CBC News)

Making people aware of those alternatives is a big part of the veterinary association's new focus. 

'It can have consequences'

The association has developed guidelines for veterinarians to educate clients about alternative options if they request declawing. 

Morgan said he hopes with effective public education declawing will continue to become less and less common.

"It is a major surgery and I think the public is well aware that it is not just trimming nails, it's the removal of the last joint of the digit," Morgan said. "So it can have consequences for balance, for mobility, and it can cause psychological issues with cats as well."

The P.E.I. Humane Society says there are other options available to deter scratching. (CBC News)

With files from Sarah MacMillan