Seth McConnell, The Denver Post Two cats play on a bench at Cat Care Society in Lakewood on Sept. 7, 2016. The organization has a practice of not adopting cats to prospective owners who say they might declaw them, a representative told a Denver City Council committee.
Denver’s proposed ban of elective cat declawing drew formal opposition Wednesday from leaders of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, who said the measure “oversimplifies complex decision-making” by medical professionals and cat owners.
But after hearing a swell of support for the ban from cat owners, rescue organizations and some veterinary professionals who refuse to perform declawings, a Denver City Council committee unanimously advanced the proposal. The move was greeted with applause.
Councilwoman Kendra Black’s proposed ban would be the first in any U.S. city outside California. Declawing procedures have been outlawed in eight cities there since 2003, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as in a number of countries around the world.
Denver’s proposal would provide an exemption when a declawing procedure is deemed to be medically necessary and only if it’s performed by a licensed veterinarian, with anesthesia used.
Supporters of the proposal argue that declawing is inhumane, causing great pain to the cat in a procedure they say includes the partial amputation of toes. But some veterinary groups say declawing is effective as a last resort for cats that incessantly scratch up furniture and home interiors.
“This is the right thing to do,” said Councilman Jolon Clark said about the ban, while holding his family’s cat in his lap in the council hearing room.
The full council likely will introduce the proposed ban Nov. 6 and could cast a final vote Nov. 13.
The veterinary association’s current and incoming presidents told the council’s safety committee that they opposed declawing but didn’t want local government to wade into medical decision-making.
“We support the principle that complex medical decisions belong in the domain of the owner and the veterinarian,” said Will French, the organization’s current president.
If the ban wins approval, the procedure still would be available at suburban clinics.
The two dissenting voices were overshadowed by 14 people who signed up to speak in favor of the ban. Six got the chance, often speaking passionately.
Suellen Scott, director of outreach for the Cat Care Society, said the Lakewood rescue typically declines adoptions if the prospective owners indicate they might remove the adoptees’ claws.
“We do offer to trim a cat’s nails every month for the rest of their life if they do not declaw that cat,” Scott said, choking up as she called the procedure a “mutilation.”
“Please, please support this ban,” she told the committee.