By Gina Spadafori
September 24, 2009
I am struck by the disconnect between the legislative agendas of some very vocal animal advocates: They want to force everyone to surgically remove the reproductive organs of all dogs and cats, and at the same time, they want to allow no one to surgically remove the claws of all cats.
What’s in common with these mandates? They are driven by well-meaning beliefs and strong emotion, but they don’t pass the sniff test when you look closely.
The advocates believe, despite evidence to the contrary and peer-reviewed science showing that surgical altering is not a wholly benign procedure, that forced spay-neuter is completely beneficial and will end the supply of pets in need of rehoming.
The advocates believe, despite evidence to the contrary and science showing that a well-done declawing with post-operative pain control is no worse than other surgeries they do not condemn, that declawingÂ isÂ the cause of behavior problems that lead to abandonment and difficulty in rehoming.
And yet, they want to force everyone to follow their unfounded beliefs, by law.
I do not choose to declaw my cats and most of my dogs and cats are spayed or neutered, and I believe that’s probably the right answer for most people and most pets. But not all people and all pets,Â which is why I’m strongly opposed to such sweeping legislative mandates — especially since the claims these laws are based on simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.
That last point is why I’m pointing you now to the VIN News Service article on the declawing controversy by Jennifer Fiala. It may well be the best article on the issue I’ve ever read. Why? Because instead of just parroting advocates for declawing bans or veterinary trade groups arguably looking to preserve business for their members, she went back to the author of the peer-reviewed study the no-declaw forces constantly quote — and found out that he believed they were using his work out of context:
[Declaw ban advocate Dr. Jennifer Conrad] argues that studies show that among relinquished cats, more declawed cats exhibit litter box avoidance compared to cats that expressed the same type of behavior with their claws intact. She points to studies by Dr. Gary Patronek, a researcher of onychectomy and its relationship to feline behavior, as having produced evidence that declaws are bad. A Google search of Patronekâ€™s name paired with â€œdeclawâ€ brings up 1,800 results, with the initial majority of sites linking his work to broad, anti-declaw statements.
Yet Patronek, vice president of animal welfare and protection at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, when contacted by the VIN News Service, had no idea that his work provides fuel for the anti-declaw movement. In fact, he says statements extrapolated from his studies, such as â€œ… declawed cats were at an increased risk of relinquishment,â€ have been used out of context. With the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy estimating that 25 percent of all cats in America are declawed, he’d expect to see more clinical problems and relinquishment than whatâ€™s been reported subjectively, if some of the sweeping claims were true.
â€œPeople cherry pick data to see what they want to see,â€ Patronek says. â€œI never declaw my own cat, and I wouldnâ€™t do it if I was in practice again. But if you were asking me if I can make some kind of unequivocal statement that declaw is bad in a large population, I canâ€™t do that. No one can answer that question, and if they can, I havenâ€™t seen the data.”
Read the rest, including the common-sense view of the San Francisco SPCA on this contentious issue.
Public policy based on emotion and sound bites is never a good idea. Kudos to Jennifer Fiala and VIN News Service for cutting through the noise and spin to examine an issue on its true merits. This is the kind of journalism that’s all too rare these days.