Cat Declawing: How a Determined Veterinarian Spearheaded Denver's Ban

On November 13, 2017, the Denver City Council unanimously approved a bill to ban the declawing of cats, making us the first city outside of California to ban the practice. The Colorado Eastern Slope Director and Director of Strategy for the Paw Project, Dr. Aubrey Lavizzo, DVM, led the campaign, and we caught up with him to find out why he is so passionate about the subject.

Why did you become involved in the anti-declawing movement?

For several years, I performed the procedure of declawing because I believed that cats did not suffer long-term pain and irreparable harm, and I also believed that if I did not perform the procedure many cats would be relinquished by owners who felt that scratching was destructive behavior that should be prevented. Eventually, I could no longer close my eyes or my mind to the acute, intense pain and chronic suffering I myself had caused, nor could I rationalize violating the sacred oath I took to do no harm, and I stopped.  

Although my decision to stop performing the cruel procedure somewhat eased my guilt, I knew that the only way I could cleanse my conscience was by speaking out in my profession against the practice.  A few years later, the anti-declawing organization Paw Project learned of my advocacy for protecting cats from harm and asked me to join them in their efforts to end the practice through legislation. Nearly twelve years later, in November of 2017, my Paw Project Colorado team and I joined with Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black to successfully ban the practice in Denver, the first ban in any city in the U.S. since 2009.  

Why do some vets defend the practice?

Unfortunately, many veterinarians perform the procedure primarily because they believe, falsely, that declawing prevents cats that scratch furniture from being relinquished to shelters. They say that, "declawing keeps cats in homes". Data gathered from animal shelters over the years proves otherwise.  

What was the first step in getting the proposed bill before the City Council?

The first step in the process was the most important one: establishing a trusting relationship with a legislator who not only listened to my concerns, but heard what I was saying, and had the the courage to stand and act to end cruelty to cats.

Could cat declawing be banned at the State level?

Although the Paw Project Colorado team has, as our end goal, a statewide ban on declawing, the reality is that state legislators in Colorado and elsewhere are, for the most part, committed to legislation that impacts their constituents. In fairness to Colorado legislators, their legislative plates are generally filled at least two months before the short, 120-day Assembly session begins in January.  

What did you learn about politics as a result of this experience?

Effective politics is as much about relationships as it is about issues. The ability to listen and hear, and accept and respect a differing perspective, is essential to establishing an open and honest dialogue. Those traits are key skills in building trusting relationships.

If you'd like to bring about change at the municipal level, the Denver City Council's website has a brief outline of how laws are enacted and how to speak at a public meeting. For more details of the legislative process, there's also a visual diagram.

For ways to redirect your cat's natural instinct to shred your new velvet sofa, read this two-step plan from Cat Watch Magazine (available through General OneFile with your DPL card) or these tips from the Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Questions? Ask Reference Services or call 720-865-1363 today! 

 

Written by Lisa on March 1, 2018

Comments

Shirley Swaine on March 3, 2018

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Thanks to Dr. Lavizzo for what he did. Here in the UK, in common with, I believe, every other country in Europe and many more besides, we have NEVER electively declawed cats. Cats' claws are such a non-issue here we don't even use nail caps. I think it is impossible to comprehend, in a country where declawing is a norm, the sheer horror and disbelief of those of us in never declawed countries that anyone could even think of mutilating their cat in this manner. I do think Dr. Lavizzo id being very diplomatic in stating some vets defend declawing because they believe it saves cats from the shelter because I, and many others have a different view - money!

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Thank you for your comment all the way from the UK, Shirley.  Yes, declawing is a fast and lucrative procedure, unfortunately.  It also causes all kinds of behavioral problems that are worse than clawing furniture.  I'm so glad that Dr. Lavizzo eliminated it my community.  

Kerry McNabb on March 5, 2018

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It is terrible that mutilating for these cats with declawing, I would never do this, they suffer so much. The vets who do the practice of declawing cats should be taken out of the practice. Thank you, Dr. Lavizzo that you do not take this barbaric practice of declawing cats in my community. Thank you!!!
Kerry McNabb Denver, CO 720-329-7407

Christy Thomas… on March 8, 2018

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In my many years of practice as a vet tech, I also witnessed the problems caused by declawing. Fortunately, my boss in the early years had worked with another vet to develop an alternative call a tendonectomy. I had his performed on my 2 cats. In their long years of life, I never saw anything resembling a pain reaction from either when I had to trim their claws. It's a shame the procedure is nearly unheard-of because it IS a viable alternative. None of the cats that had this procedure ever came back for the alternative declaw, nor did any of the owners report any sort of behavioral problems due to pain. I would recommend it if you can find a vet trained in the procedure because there is no post-op pain that I have any knowledge of.

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The severing of the tendons should not be an option either. The cat may have his claws, but he cannot extend them and basically has “floppy” toes. The cat is dependent on the owner to trim his nails so they don’t grow into his pads. Since the owner has to clip the claws, let the cat have full use of his tendons instead of floppy toes. Horrible suggestion.

Thank you on March 12, 2018

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Thank you for this initiative. In Norway, I vet will lose his license for declawing cats. It was about time, that someone stood up in Denver for the poor cats.

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