Veterinarians support ban on declawing cats

March 23, 2023

Illinois’ HB 1533 passed the House committee vote on March 7th, which means the practice of declawing cats may soon be outlawed in the state if the bill can pass further legislative hurdles. Veterinarians in Illinois are thrilled about the prospect of this much-needed law to protect cats.

Dr. Debra Teachout, who lives near Chicago, says there’s good reason for declawing to be banned as the procedure leads to short- and long-term behavioral and medical problems. “Declawing often increases biting and house soiling, which are proven reasons for cats to be relinquished to shelters,” Dr. Teachout says. “Even when cats are destructive, I’ve found there are always workable solutions that do not involve declawing, relinquishing to a shelter, or euthanasia.”

While ISVMA President Dr. Joanne Carlson was quoted in My Journal Courier as saying, “veterinarians perform feline onychectomies infrequently, and any suggestions that this is a common practice are untrue,” statistics don’t seem to support her claim. estimates between 25 and 43 percent of cats are declawed in the United States.

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association recently sent emails to members encouraging opposition to HB 1533. An unsigned email sent March 10th read, “This bill threatens the veterinary profession, belittles your credentials and restricts your ability to use sound medical judgment.”

Dr. Teachout finds such inflammatory accusations absurd. “If there’s no law banning declawing,” she says, “many veterinarians are pressured into declawing cats in response to their human customers’ demands, and, if one veterinarian turns down a client, that client will simply look for another willing to go through with the procedure.” Dr. Teachout feels that by opposing regulations that protect animals, the ISVMA is disregarding those veterinarians who would like the backing of legislation that has successfully protected their patients in states like New York and Maryland.

In addition to urging opposition to the ban on declawing, the ISVMA gave members a sample letter with a story about a senior cat scratching her disabled caretaker’s legs. Dr. Crystal Heath, co-founder of the veterinary advocacy group, Our Honor, is baffled by the ISVMA’s decision to use such manipulative tactics. “Sadly, because there is no scientific argument for their position, the ISVMA is misleading legislators through a faulty and emotionally charged anecdote.” Dr. Heath notes that the letter fails to point out how declawing could lead to biting or litter box avoidance, “problems that would make the cat more likely to be relinquished to the shelter and a poor adoption candidate.”

Dr. Heath is urging those who want to support the bans to visit the website to find contact information for your representative as well as a sample letter to voice your support for HB 1533.

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