Halifax vets call for ban on ‘unethical’ declawing procedure

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Halifax vets call for ban on ‘outdated, unnecessary’ declawing
WATCH: The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has formally come out against declawing cats, with some hoping this will push Nova Scotia to an outright ban – Apr 5, 2017

A retired veterinarian and longtime opponent of cat declawing says the time is now for Nova Scotia to ban the controversial procedure.

“I would absolutely love to see a ban,” said Dr. Hugh Chisholm.

“I’d love to be able to say Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to enact a ban on declawing cats. There’s no reason why we can’t do it. We now have the information from the CVMA that says its unethical.”

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association formally released its position on cat declawing last week, opposing a procedure they say is “unethical,” causing the felines to “suffer needlessly.”

Chisholm said it’s a “huge” move in the right direction, however there’s still more work that needs to be done.

“There was one clause in there that basically gives provincial veterinary associations the option to pretty much do what they want and the CVMA will support them,” said Chisholm.

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“It’s unfortunate that’s in there but I understand from speaking to a committee member they had to put it in there in order to get it passed.”

READ MORE: Halifax cats not suitable for adoption find new homes in barns

Chisholm brought forward a motion to the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association to ban the procedure back in 2014. The motion was defeated by a membership vote, however, he said it’s important not to let the issue slide.

The NSVMA made an amendment to their code of ethics in September 2014. The following regulations came into effect in January 2015:

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  • No member of the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association shall surgically declaw domestic cats:
  • (1) without providing clients with adequate information to allow the client to make an informed decision, and (2) without obtaining a written consent to perform the onychectomy
  • (a)in the form set out in Schedule “A,” or
  • (b)in such other form as may be approved by the Registrar, where the procedure is performed in a hospital setting.

Chisholm, however, says the amendment does little to put a stop to the procedure. He said he’s heard instances where veterinarians are forced into doing it after clients threatened to put their cat down.

“To say that we need to declaw cats because people are going to want to get rid of them… it’s not true. It’s a con job.”

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia SPCA program reduces Halifax cat colony populations

The Nova Scotia SPCA’s position on surgical alterations states they oppose it for “cosmetic or convenience purposes.”

“We’re glad to see the medical community moving in the right direction,” said Sandra Flemming, provincial animal care director of Nova Scotia SPCA.

She said their organization focuses on educating prospective pet owners surrounding the dangers of cat declawing.

“During the adoption process, if someone indicates to us that they want to get the cat declawed, the first thing we do is provide client education. So we explain to them the risk associated with the surgery, that it’s not something that we condone or promote,” said Flemming.

“If they still decided to go forward with the surgery, then we wouldn’t adopt the cat to them.”

She said most clients will change their minds about moving forward with the procedure, once learning about how it’s actually conducted.

“Everybody loves pets and nobody intentionally wants to hurt their animal,” said Flemming.

“When you give them the proper information, they usually can make a really great decision.”

WATCH MORE: International effort to stop declawing cats results in renewed calls to end practice in Ontario

While cat declawing is not banned by the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association, some practices have taken it upon themselves to stop performing it.

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Spryfield Animal Hospital, along with the two other practices within the Halifax Veterinary Hospital Group, decided to take matters into their own hands five years ago.

“We were being proactive,” said medical director Dr. Paul Kendall.

“A lot of clients are against declawing cats. They think it’s cruel and inhumane. I think this movement now, because of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association brought it up, I think it’s just public opinion and the profession is pretty solidly behind the association for bringing this in.”

He said their practice refuses to do the procedure unless it’s medically necessary, such as in cases where a tumour is growing in the area.

“It’s like taking this end of your finger off. Yes, you can get by with it, but you jump down on something or land on something, its going to be painful,” said Kendall.

He said he would like to see the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association take a stance on the procedure he calls “unnecessary.”

“The council which represents us can, through their wisdom, unilaterally decide we’re going to have a ban with regards to declawing kitty cats,” said Kendall.

“We did that with tail docks, we did that with de-barking, tail docking… I think that we can extend that to clawing cats.”

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The NSVMA’s next meeting will be held on April 19. A spokesperson said the statement from the CMVA will likely be brought forward.

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