Some inside scoop on West Hollywood’s declaw ban

The California Veterinary Medical Association is an organization dedicated to representing the interests of veterinarians in California. I am a member. The CVMA is often...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Mar 12th 2008


The California Veterinary Medical Association is an organization dedicated to representing the interests of veterinarians in California. I am a member. The CVMA is often at the forefront of projects that advance the well-being of animals and veterinarians in the state.

In my opinion, however, the CVMA shot itself in the foot with its recent lawsuit against West Hollywood’s law that banned the declawing of cats. If the CVMA’s goal was to make veterinarians look bad, they succeeded. By any other measure, the lawsuit was a failure.

Here is some background from an article in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Judge allows California cities to ban cat declawing

The state Supreme Court allowed cities in California to ban cat declawing Wednesday, rejecting veterinarians’ challenge to a West Hollywood ordinance that could lead to copycat measures elsewhere.

The ordinance, which West Hollywood passed in 2003, is the only one of its kind in the state.

Wow. Talk about bad press. To give The Chronicle credit, the story mentions that not every vet in the state supports the willy-nilly declawing of cats. And, they point out that it was the CVMA, not individual veterinarians, that initiated the lawsuit. But on the whole, the article does not make vets look good.

The CVMA sent frequent updates to its members (who, incidentally, were not consulted before the lawsuit was filed) regarding this case. The organization’s stated (although not entirely credible) reason for pursuing the lawsuit had nothing to do with opposing bans on declaw procedures. Rather, the organization says it is worried that this precedent will lead to an unnavigable hodgepodge of local laws covering not just declaws, but every aspect of the profession.

Perhaps the CVMA has a valid point. But by choosing to make its stand over a procedure that so many people (including large numbers of veterinarians) find ethically questionable, I think the CVMA did much more to harm my profession than to help it.