Call for a Canadian Ban on Cruel Cat Declawing
Cat declawing (also known as onychectomy or partial digital amputation) is a cruel practice that the Canadian federal law still allows. Cat declawing involves amputating a portion of each toe bone in the cat’s paw. In a human, the equivalent would be cutting off the first joint of each finger. The cat is then forced to walk on the amputated paws for the rest of his or her life. Apart from the initial pain, long recovery, and high chance of infection, cats also experience behavioural problems as a result of the procedure.
Cat declawing is often performed to prevent cats from scratching furniture and other beings. However, alternative methods can be used to train your cat to scratch in acceptable ways. Some alternative methods include training your cat to use scratching posts, deferring cats from scratching furniture using citrus-scented sprays, or putting plastic nail caps on the cat’s claws. Reinforcing good behaviour using catnip, treats, and verbal praise can aid in training your cat to the desired behaviour in a pain-free way. Therefore, cat declawing is a harmful and irreversible procedure that only benefits an animal’s human companion in a trivial way.
Luckily, there has been recent movement in some of the Canadian provinces on this issue. In March 2018, Nova Scotia set a strong precedent by legally banning the practice in the Animal Care Amendment Act.Other provinces have Veterinary Medical Associations that have banned the practice. In September 2021, the momentum of these associations has continued as Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association became the eighth province to ban the cruel practice (joining Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). While these self-regulating bans are a step forward on the mission to protect these cats, these associations are completely optional for veterinarians to subscribe. Unfortunately, no deterrent prevents a cat owner from seeking the procedure for their companion animal, since the ramifications only apply to the veterinary profession. Therefore, a national ban could fill these gaps.
A potential national ban should define “offenders” as those who perform, assist with, or arrange for the performance of declawing. Penalties could include a fine that would defer all veterinarians from the monetary incentives of performing the procedure. Similarly, a prohibition order against owning an animal for a period of time following an offence could be instated. This penalty would deter individuals from seeking cat declawing since the benefit of having a cat declawed (to live with the animal without the threat of scratching) would be nullified if the individual was prohibited from living with animals for a period of time. This type of prohibition precedent was set in the State of Rhode Island’s legislation banning cat declawing. Fortunately, cat declawing is already illegal in dozens of countries around the world including Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, the UK, and many parts of Europe.
Our Canadian cat-loving society (including AEL Advocacy!) would support a bill to ban declawing. Select organizations such as veterinary associations, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Societies, Animal Justice, veterinary clinics, and educated cat owners have expressed their concerns about the practice. With provincial and international precedent as well as citizen support, hopefully Canada will address society’s distaste towards the inhumane practice of cat declawing and issue a national ban soon.
_________  Dr. Robin Downing, “Feline Toe Amputation/Declawing” (11 November 2017), online: YouTube <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM00TNHRpLQ>.  “Alternatives to Cat Declawing”, Centre Vétérinaire Rive-Sud, online: <http://www.cvrivesud.com/en/cat/alternatives-cat-declawing.html>  Bill 27, An Act to Protect Animals and to Aid Animals in Distress, 2nd sess, 63rd Assembly, Nova Scotia, 2018, cl 2, 27-28 (assented to 11 October 2018).  Moises Canales-Lavigne, “Saskatchewan becomes latest province to ban cat declawing” (17 September 2021), Global News, online: <https://globalnews.ca/news/8199092/saskatchewan-cat-declawing-ban-declared/>.  US, Bill H5160, An Act Relating to Animals and Animal Husbandry – Cruelty to Animals, RI, 2017, online: <https://pawproject.org/pdfs-legislation/RI%20H5160.pdf>  “Places Where Declawing is Illegal”, Declawing, online: <https://www.declawing.com/countries-that-outlaw-declawing>.