California Declaw/Debark Law Spurs Action Alert From Veterinary Association

 |  Jun 18th 2010  |   0 Contributions


Yesterday I received an urgent message from the California Veterinary Medical Association. If I had received the message on April 1 I might have been able to make sense of it.

June 17, 2010

The CVMA is strongly opposed to AB 2743-NAVA

AB 2743 seeks to prohibit a landlord from requiring a tenant, [sic] to have their animal "declawed" or "devocalized" as a condition of rental occupancy. While the CVMA is supportive of the overall goal in this bill, we have taken a "strongly oppose" position because of several key sections in the current version of the bill.

At least the organization claims to support the overall goal of the bill. But how could anyone get truly riled up over a bill that merely prohibits a landlord from requiring that a tenant's cat be declawed? It seems pretty uncontroversial to me.

Here is CVMA's explanation.

Specifically, language in the bill:

States that declawing has been associated with unintended behavioral consequences that could lead to public health and safety concerns. These claims are not only incorrect, but they are scientifically unfounded. There is no proven relationship between a cat declaw procedure and the impact on public safety. All cats whether declawed or not, have the ability to bite, soil, scratch, etc., but again, these behaviors certainly do not rise to the level of a "public health and safety concern."

Improperly defines the terms "non-therapeutic", "declawing" and "devocalization". These definitions set the stage for future legislation to limit the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. The intent of the bill is to prohibit a landlord from stipulating that an animal must be declawed or devocalized, as a condition of tenancy. It is irrelevant if the procedure is being performed for "non-therapeutic" reasons. "Declawing" would be prohibited for any "non-therapeutic" reasons, which include "reasons of perceived need or convenience in keeping an animal." The CVMA believes this language means an elderly or immunocompromised person who cannot risk being scratched could not own a cat.

I think most reasonable people agree that elderly and immunocompromised people should be exempted from declaw bans if their health is at risk from their cats' nails. But we aren't talking about banning declawing here. We're talking about banning the requiring of declawing. This law, as I understand it, has nothing to do with banning declawing. The third-to-last sentence above should read, "Requiring 'declawing' would be prohibited for any 'non-therapeutic' reasons, which include 'reasons of perceived need or convenience in keeping an animal.'"

Evidently CVMA is assuming that if the legislature is given an inch in the declawing debate, they will take a mile. I'm not sure it's a good PR move to make this type of stand on legislation that most animal loving Californians (in other words, most veterinary clients) likely will support.

CVMA's action alert continues:

Our legislative team has been working with the author and sponsors of this bill for several months to develop sound and meaningful legislation. However, the bill still contains language that is unacceptable. As a result, we must oppose this poorly crafted legislation in its current form.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed AB 2743 by a vote of three to two along party lines on Tuesday, June 15. The bill could be voted on by the full Senate as early as June 21.

Time is short - please take action today. Send personal letters to your state senator and the Governor asking them to oppose AB 2743.

If you live in California, remember that you, too, can contact your state senator and the Governor--even if you don't agree with CVMA's position on this matter.

Photo: I assume the law would not prohibit landlords from requiring that cat owners apply Soft Paws to their pets.

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