Austin, Texas Bans Cat Declaw


The Austin, TX city council has now banned declaw with a unanimous vote (on March 18). In the U.S., in 2019 New York State totally banned declaw, joining California cities Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, and Culver City as well as Denver, CO.

Even with the formidable distraction of the pandemic, Austin went ahead – in part because of overwhelming public support.

In 2018 an Animal Advisory Committee investigated the issue, and after receiving extensive public input moved to recommend the Austin City County to move ahead with the ban. Experts also added their varied input, including shelters, cat rescue groups and veterinarians.

Why No Declaw?

Increasingly, published studies indicate that declaw often does long-term damage, sending cats into chronic pain suffered for a lifetime. That pain may or may not be recognized by cat parents or at times even veterinary professionals, since cats are so adept at masking pain. However, that pain may lead to inappropriate elimination, and that may lead to a fracture in the human-animal bond, and the cat being relinquished to a shelter or worse just tossed outdoors.

Declaw is an elective amputation as a part of a digit is surgically removed (it doesn’t matter what technique is done to declaw a cat, it’s still an amputation).

For many years, lots of nations have banned declaw including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Sweden, and others.

Also, several Canadian provinces have banned declaw. A big difference is that in the U.S. some organized veterinary medical associations are opposed to the ban. That was case in Colorado and in New York, as their state veterinary medical associations fought hard against the bans. In Canada, the bans were not only supported by the veterinary associations but created by them.

U.S. Positions

However organized veterinary medicine in the U.S. is now starting to take another tone.

After the American Veterinary Medical Association and the approximately 1,000 Banfield the Pet Hospitals crafted stronger statements opposing declaw, now the 750 VCA animal hospital group pretty much decided “the heck with it” and outrightly banned declaw as elective option. If you don’t know, declaws in cats are truly amputations, as the last part of the digit is removed.  Here is the VCA Statement:

We believe that every pet owner has the responsibility for providing a safe and supportive home for their animal that enables appropriate expression of natural behaviors and fully integrates them into the home and family. Every medical procedure supported by our veterinary practices has been put in place with the health and wellbeing of pets in mind and, based on this, we do not support the elective declawing of any animal in our veterinary practices.
Declawing includes surgical onychectomy, digital flexor tendonectomy, and generalized phalangectomy for non-medical reasons. Feline scratching and nail sharpening are normal behaviors and the removal of nails has been shown to lead to chronic pain and, in some cases, to cause long-term behavioral issues. We believe that education of pet owners about appropriate behavioral and environmental modifications are humane alternatives to these elective procedures.

 And going into this year, the American Association of Feline Partitioners announced Cat Friendly Practices cannot be considered cat ‘cat friendly’ if they declaw.   Also, AAFP has just now launched a Claw Friendly Toolkit.

 There’s little doubt that the pandemic has merely slowed legislation and other cities and states will no doubt follow and ban the practice.