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Santa Monica City Council to consider animal declawing issue tonight [Updated]

September 22, 2009 |  8:02 pm

Catpaw

[Updated at 7:04 a.m.: The Santa Monica City Council voted 5 to 1 in favor of directing staff to prepare an ordinance that, if passed, would restrict animal declawing in the city. Council members Kevin McKeown, Gleam Davis, Mayor Ken Genser, Pam O'Connor and Robert Holbrook voted in favor, Richard Bloom opposed, and Bobby Shriver was absent, having left the late-running meeting before the vote.]

The Santa Monica City Council is set to decide tonight whether to start the process of restricting animal declawing within the city. The proposal by Council members Kevin McKeown and Gleam Davis directs the city’s staff to prepare an ordinance in time for it to be able to take effect no later than Dec. 31.

The issue of domestic cat declawing has gained new urgency for proponents of local bans because of a state law signed July 2 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that gives the state authority over medical scope-of-practice issues and prevents cities from passing ordinances banning medical procedures starting Jan. 1.

Dr. Jennifer Conrad, director of the Santa Monica-based Paw Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that brought the issue to the Santa Monica City Council, said her group has been trying for a long time to get more local bans, “but now the cities realize it’s now or never.”

West Hollywood banned declawing in 2003. The decision was overturned by a Los Angeles judge in 2005 after a challenge by the California Veterinary Medical Assn. but was reinstated by a state appeals court in 2007. Under the new state law, West Hollywood’s ban will stand, as would any other municipalities’ bans that take effect before Jan. 1. 

The CVMA, which represents more than 6,000 veterinary professionals, was a sponsor of the state law.

“We believe that the decision to perform a medical or surgical procedure should be made by the owner of the cat in consultation with their veterinarian,” says Dr. Mark Nunez, association president.

Cat declawing may be performed by vets for both medical and behavioral reasons, such as to stop furniture scratching. The CVMA says it should be a last-resort option for vets and pet owners, but opponents of the practice compare it to amputation.

Councilman McKeown called cat declawing “an unacceptable act of animal cruelty” and said that his proposal has the support of “many, if not most” Santa Monica veterinarians. 

If the Santa Monica City Council decides to go forward in pursuing the proposal, there would be public hearings before a council vote on an ordinance.

San Francisco is currently considering a similar proposal.

[Updated at 7:51 p.m., Sept. 23: An earlier version said the West Hollywood decision was overturned by a Los Angeles judge in 2003.]

-- Anne Colby

Photo: Alexander Natruskin / Reuters

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