Pittsburgh council advances law banning cat declawing surgery

In Pittsburgh, cat declawing could soon be banned.

Under the laws tabled by the city council on Wednesday, the operation, which many veterinarians say causes behavior problems and long-term pain in the animals, would be banned.

“I think vets know better and want this to stop,” said Jennifer Conrad, a California veterinarian who directs The Paw Project, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending the practice of cat declawing.

She was one of several experts advocating the legislation sponsored by Council members Bobby Wilson, Bruce Kraus and Anthony Coghill.

To remove a cat’s claws, veterinarians must amputate the bone in the cat’s paws. The procedure usually involves amputating up to 18 bones, Conrad said.

The procedure can cause long-term pain in cats – and behavior problems that lead some pet owners to abandon their cats.

Clawless cats are often suspicious of people and often have problems with the litter box. They’re also more prone to biting as a defense mechanism because they can’t use their claws, said Jackson Galaxy, an expert on cat health and behavior and host of the Animal Planet show, My Cat From Hell.

“There is no valid reason for this practice,” he said, calling on the council to ban the practice. “It’s heartbreaking.”

There is often nothing he can do to help cats suffering from the effects of the surgery.

Cats with these problems are often given up, which “clogs” care systems and drains resources in shelters, said Carol Whaley, director of humane programming at Animal Friends, the Ohio township-based shelter.

It is often almost impossible to accommodate cats that have developed such problems after declawing.

The subject is personal for Kraus, whose first cat had already been declawed when he was adopted.

“Over the years I have had great difficulty with her ability to use a litter box,” he said.

Kraus suggested working with Allegheny County Council in hopes they would pass similar laws to ensure pet owners in Pittsburgh don’t leave the city limits to declaw services.

Several other cities – including Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Denver – have already adopted similar guidelines. In Los Angeles, Conrad said, the number of cats dropped has declined after the measure was passed.

She also noted that large health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention oppose declawing. Clawless cats, she said, are more prone to being bitten, and cat bites are more serious health outcomes than scratches.

Julia Felton is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, jfelton@triblive.com, or on Twitter.

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