Illinois should ban cruel practice of declawing cats

Declawing is not some sort of specialized manicure. It is inhumane, a veterinarian writes, and banned already in most of the world.

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Illinois lawmakers are considering a law that would ban the practice of declawing cats.

Illinois lawmakers are considering a law that would ban the practice of declawing cats.

NHAC NGUYEN, Getty

I would like to respond to Dr. Joanne Carlson’s recent letter, “Scratch misguided legislation that would ban declawing cats.” As a practicing veterinarian and the founder and director of the veterinarian-run nonprofit Paw Project, the world’s largest organization dedicated solely to ending declawing, I fully support HB 1533, which will prohibit declawing in Illinois.

Declawing is not some sort of specialized manicure that only a veterinarian can do. It is amputation (de-knuckling) of a cat’s toe bones that contain the claws. This procedure offers no benefit to the cat, and as reported in peer-reviewed veterinary journals, has been proven irrefutably to cause life-long lameness and behavioral problems in many declawed cats.

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The public, which believes veterinarians should primarily be concerned with the well-being of animals, is puzzled to see the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposing legislation that would ban this archaic and harmful practice.

The ISVMA opines that by declawing a cat, they are giving it a home and protecting it from euthanasia, but there is no evidence their speculation is valid. A peer-reviewed study published in the veterinary literature, from British Columbia, which banned declawing in 2018, found no increase in the number of cats surrendered to shelters since the ban was enacted.

Likewise, in all cities in California that have banned declawing, with laws dating back up to 20 years, relinquishment of cats to shelters actually has decreased after enactment of the bans. Local authorities say because of the bans, there are fewer declawed cats exhibiting behaviors like biting and litter box avoidance that are known to lead to relinquishment.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) states, “There is no current peer-reviewed data definitively proving that cats with destructive behavior are more likely to be euthanized, abandoned or relinquished. The decision of whether or not to declaw should not be impacted by these considerations.”

Without professional veterinary organizations taking positions against declawing, many veterinarians are guilted or pressured into performing unethical surgeries by their human clients or employers.

And without legislation banning the procedure, pet owners simply shop around until they find a less-compassionate veterinarian willing to do it. Despite Dr. Carlson’s claim, there is absolutely no evidence declawing has become “rare.” The most recent articles in the veterinary literature report that 21% to 24% of cats owned in the United States are declawed.

The ISVMA’s and the AVMA’s failure to condemn declawing harms the veterinarian’s reputation as caring advocates for animals. It is worth noting that declawing is not performed in most of the world, where it has long been illegal or considered unethical by the veterinary profession. There are no “medical exceptions for human health” in those countries; surely there are immunocompromised, anti-coagulated or diabetic people living there.

It is critical that those in the veterinary profession unite to make every reasonable effort to protect animals from avoidable pain and suffering. I sincerely hope Illinois follows the lead of New York and Maryland by ending the cruel and archaic practice of declawing.

Jennifer Conrad, DVM, founder and director, Paw Project

Guns rights are not sacred

I have a 5-year-old granddaughter who is happy, creative and as gentle a human being as I have ever known. She already has learned the basics of reading and math and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. However, it is sickening to think that one of the first lessons she will be taught is an active shooter drill. This is the new, insane American norm.

Republicans have fallen back on their mantra that mass shootings are not a gun problem but a mental health issue. If that is their rationale, then don’t allow those with mental health issues to buy a gun or, in the case of Nashville, seven guns.

Owning guns is not a sacred, irrevocable right. Rights can be forfeited. You can lose your right to drive a car if you are not physically or mentally able to, or convicted of drunk driving. You lose the right to vote if you commit a felony.

How difficult is it for these people not to connect the dots when it comes to guns? Does no one see the hypocrisy when U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, whose district includes the Nashville school site of a recent mass shooting, somehow deems it proper to send a family Christmas card, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, posing his family, including underage children, with guns?

Republicans are anti-abortion, but it is obvious that their concept of protecting that child ends at birth. Their hypocrisy has gone beyond any semblance of common sense and human decency.

Tom Smoucha, Arlington Heights

Justice Thomas following Scalia in taking free travel

For two decades, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received undisclosed luxury travel and accommodations from Harlan Crow, a Republican billionaire. Not to worry because Thomas claimed he was advised “by colleagues and others in the judiciary” that he need not disclose those luxury vacations.

He must have been advised by his old buddy, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was notorious for accepting reportedly 258 subsidized trips from 2004 to 2014. When Scalia died in 2016, he was staying for free at a luxury west Texas hunting lodge owned by a businessman whose company had recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.

Thomas says now he will disclose at least part of the value of free trips he accepts from Crow.

Now? After 20 years?

Bob Barth, Edgewater

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