Is it time to ban the practice of declawing cats?

Animal advocates push for a ban on declawing domestic cats in British Columbia.

Canadian vet association says the practice causes unnecessary and avoidable pain

Declawing involves amputating part of a cat's toe bones, usually on the front paws, but sometimes the back paws as well. (Radio-Canada)

Margie Scherk is among a growing number of veterinarians who refuse to declaw a cat, even if its owner wants the procedure done. 

"Who gives me the right to decide that I'm going to lop off your fingers at the first knuckle?" Scherk said. 

More than 2,700 people have signed her online petition, calling on fellow British Columbian veterinarians to stop declawing domestic cats. 

"This is so long overdue it's ridiculous," Scherk said.

Unacceptable 'from an ethical viewpoint'

In December, the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association deemed the practice "ethically unacceptable" and imposed a ban that will go into effect in March, making it the first province to do so. The practice is already banned in the U.K., Europe, Australia and several California cities.

Emilia Gordon, senior manager of animal health at the BC SPCA, would like to see British Columbia follow suit. 

"We know it's a lot more harmful than we used to think and there is a much higher risk of adverse long-term effects than we used to think," said Gordon, who points to studies that show declawed cats are more likely to bite and be aggressive. 

A cat's claws are trimmed by a technician. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

B.C. vets want chance to vote 

The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia has polled its members on the practice.

Documents obtained by CBC News indicate nearly 80 per cent of the 509 B.C. vets that responded to the poll support a ban, and 62 per cent have already stopped performing the procedure. 

"Even though many vets voluntarily have chosen to stop doing the procedure, [the next step] is to ask the CVBC to let veterinarians vote on whether this procedure should even be legal," Gordon said. 

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has strengthened its stand, saying the practice causes unnecessary and avoidable pain. 

It is up to veterinarian regulators in each province to decide whether to ban the practice.

In a statement, the College of Veternarians of B.C. says it is aware of the concerns many people have and has planned a study "to examine the optimal way of meeting the objectives of all stakeholders." The statement adds that there will be consultations before action is taken.
 

More than 2,500 people have signed an online petition, calling on British Columbian veterinarians to stop declawing domestic cats. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

About the Author

Brenna Rose

@BrennaRoseTV

Brenna Rose is a reporter and anchor who reported across western Canada before making her way to CBC Vancouver in 2015.

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