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L.A. council committee favors law against declawing cats, calling it animal cruelty

November 2, 2009 | 12:38 pm
A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council voted today to seek a law banning veterinarians from declawing cats, saying the procedure constituted cruelty to animals.

The council’s Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended that City Atty. Carmen Trutanich draft an ordinance banning the practice. The proposal was made by Councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz, who said the procedure caused “unnecessary pain, anguish and permanent disability” to cats.

“Anyone who cannot handle the claws of a cat should not have a cat to begin with,” said Rosendahl, a cat owner who represents coastal neighborhoods from Westchester to Pacific Palisades.

Cats have been an important policy issue for Koretz, who, as a lawmaker in Sacramento, tried without success to enact a statewide ban on declawing in 2003. The following year, he won passage of a bill prohibiting the declawing of exotic animals, such as lions. After joining the council in July, Koretz began using televised council meetings to find owners for cats in the city shelter system.

Councilman Tony Cardenas threw his support behind the measure but voiced doubts that the city’s Animal Services Department had enough employees to enforce such a law.  He also worried that cat owners will simply go to veterinarians in neighboring cities to get the procedure, sometimes known as an onychectomy.

“I don’t want to give you false hope,” Councilman Greig Smith told the audience of cat advocates and assorted city employees. “This is not going to stop the problem.”

West Hollywood already has a ban on declawing, and Santa Monica is expected to give final approval to a similar measure next week. Malibu, Beverly Hills and San Francisco also are considering declawing bans.

In Los Angeles, the proposed declawing law would allow exceptions in cases where removing claws would address the medical needs of a cat, such as an infection or recurring illness.

During today’s hearing, animal shelter officials confirmed that they didn't have the resources to crack down on declawing. That issue did not worry Koretz, who said he believed most veterinarians would drop the practice in Los Angeles once a declawing ban was on the books.

“It’s going to be 99% self-enforcing,” he said.

-- David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall

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