The Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) passed the new bylaw on Sept. 12 during its annual general meeting.
In an emailed statement, the association said the bylaw was proposed by its membership. It then went to a vote, with the majority of the membership voting in favour of the ban, and passed.
According to the SVMA, the bylaw, which is already in effect, reads, “No member shall perform elective and non-therapeutic partial digital amputation of any felid including domestic cats.”
“The bylaw basically bans non-medically emergent declawing of cats,” said Dr. Lesley Sawa, veterinarian and owner of the Animal Clinic of Regina.
“Many clients would declaw cats for convenience in order to stop cats from scratching furniture and such, but it has always been hard for us as veterinarians to proceed with that procedure.”
Sawa said a declaw is when the third bone and nail of a cat’s paw are removed, which she added is a painful procedure for the animal that can cause a number of side effects down the road.
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), those risks include acute pain, nerve trauma and long-term complications like lameness, chronic neuropathic pain and behavioural problems.
Furthermore, the AAFP states that declawing is not only an unneeded medical procedure for felines, but scratching is a normal behaviour which is both learned and inherent.
“The bylaw for us can be used as a tool to support our refusal to do the procedure,” Sawa noted. “When the public comes in asking for this to be done, as a veterinarian it’s our job to educate them on alternatives to declawing and why we feel the declawing procedure is unnecessary.”
Those alternatives include applying nail covers, trimming the cat’s nails or training cats to use provided scratching options such as a scratch post.
Veterinarians say if a cat’s nails are properly trimmed, it will reduce their desire to remove shedding nails by scratching on items you wouldn’t want them to.
Declawing numbers down in Saskatchewan
Sawa admitted she has seen fewer people come to her clinic requesting their cat be declawed. In the past ten years, she believes she has performed the operation ten times.
She noted some Saskatchewan clinics have refused to perform a cat declawing procedure even before the bylaw was passed provincially.
“There is a huge decline in clients asking for the procedure to be done because there are alternatives,” Sawa said. “I really don’t feel that this is going to make a huge change because most clinics would rarely do the procedure.”
Saskatchewan becomes the eighth Canadian province to ban declawing, behind British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sawa thinks there are a few reasons why it took Saskatchewan this long to pass a ban on elective declawing of cats.
“There have always been concerns that if we banned declawing then people would either find a way to do it, they would give their pet up or they would euthanize their pet because there is no way they could have their pet declawed,” suggested Sawa.
“However, there have been studies recently that have shown these thoughts are not supported.”
Nova Scotia was the first province to make it illegal. The rule was passed in December 2017, however, their ban took effect in March 2018.