Cat declawing (also known as onychectomy or partial digital amputation) is a cruel practice that Canadian federal law still allows. Cat declawing involves amputating a portion of each toe bone in the cat’s paw. In a human, the equivalent would be cutting off the first joint of each finger. The cat is then forced to walk on the amputated paws for the rest of his or her life. Apart from the initial pain, long recovery, and high chance of infection, cats also experience behavioural problems as a result of the procedure.
Cat declawing is often performed to prevent cats from scratching furniture and other beings. However, alternative methods can be used to train your cat to scratch in acceptable ways. Some alternative methods include training your cat to use scratching posts, deterring cats from scratching furniture using citrus-scented sprays, or putting plastic nail caps on the cat’s claws. Reinforcing good behaviour with catnip, treats, and verbal praise can aid in training your cat in the desired behaviour in a pain-free way. Cat declawing is an irreversible procedure that only benefits owners in a trivial way at the expense of harming cats.
Luckily, some Canadian provinces have been shifting their view on this issue. In March 2018, Nova Scotia set a strong precedent by legally banning the practice in the Animal Care Amendment Act. Other provinces have Veterinary Medical Associations that have banned the practice, including Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. While these self-regulating bans are a step forward on the mission to protect Canadian cats, membership to these associations is completely optional for veterinarians. Unfortunately, no deterrent prevents a cat owner from seeking the procedure for their pet, since the ramifications only apply to the veterinary profession. Having a national ban would address these gaps in legislation.
The national ban should define offenders as those who perform, assist with, or arrange for the performance of declawing. Penalties could include a fine that would deter all veterinarians from the monetary incentives of performing the procedure. Similarly, a prohibition order against owning an animal for a period of time following an offence could be instated. This penalty would deter pet owners from seeking cat declawing since the benefit of having a cat declawed (to live with the animal without the threat of scratching) would be nullified if the owner were prohibited from living with animals for a period of time. This type of prohibition precedent was set in the Rhode Island legislation banning cat declawing. Fortunately, cat declawing is already illegal in dozens of countries around the world including Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, the UK, and many parts of Europe.
Our Canadian cat-loving society would support a bill to ban declawing. Select organisations such as veterinary associations, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Societies, Animal Justice, veterinary clinics, and educated cat owners have expressed their concerns about the practice. With provincial and international precedent as well as citizen support, hopefully Canada will address the inhumane practice of cat declawing and issue a national ban soon.
JD Candidate 2020
University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law
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