We, the undersigned animal shelter and rescue professionals, express our support to prohibit nontherapeutic declawing of cats. The sheltering community aims to keep families with their pets whenever possible and to support the wellbeing of the animals who must enter our care. Our organizations are focused on preventing animal suffering and enhancing the human animal bond.
- Declawing is amputation surgery that is typically performed for the convenience of an owner to prevent cats from causing damage to furniture and other household items via scratching. It is only rarely necessary to treat a medical condition such as to remove a tumor on a paw.
- Scratching is a normal feline behavior. It removes the dead husks from their claws, marks territory, both visually and with scent glands and stretches their muscles. For cats who are relinquished due to causing property damage with their scratching, we can counsel clients on the use of positive reinforcement based behavioral training, how to perform regular nail trims, the use of nail caps, and other humane alternatives.
- Unable to scratch normally, a declawed cat may experience a higher level of frustration. This can lead to unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting, which can lead to the surrender of a cat to our organizations.
- There is no evidence that declaw prohibition laws have resulted in “a surge of cats” being relinquished to shelter systems. In fact, statistics from San Francisco Animal Care and Control, the Los Angeles Animal Service Department, Santa Monica Animal Control Services, Burbank Police Department and Berkeley Animal Care Services show that cat intake numbers decreased when declawing was prohibited in those five cities.
- A 2021 study conducted in British Columbia, Canada published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery showed that there was no statistically significant increase in cat relinquishment to shelters following the implementation of a declaw ban in British Columbia. Their findings suggest that legislation banning declaw does not increase the risk of shelter relinquishment. (Ellis A., van Haaften, K., Protopopova, A., Gordon, E. (2021). Effect of a provincial feline onychectomy ban on cat intake and euthanasia in a British Columbia animal shelter system.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. doi:10.1177/1098612X211043820.)
Because of adverse behavior and health effects, the shelter community opposes the practice of nontherapeutic declawing. Beyond the scientific evidence, declaw is a cruel and inhumane procedure that negatively impacts cats in homes and in the shelter. Despite scientific research and recommendations by shelters and veterinarians against declaw, declaw procedures are still allowed. We encourage lawmakers to protect cats and people by supporting a prohibition on nontherapeutic declawing.