Legal path clear for California communities to ban declawing
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
SAN FRANCISCO–California cities and counties may ban
declawing cats, the California Supreme Court affirmed on October 10,
2007, refusing to hear an appeal filed by the California Veterinary
Medical Association against a West Hollywood ordinance adopted in
2003. The West Hollywood ordinance is the only local anti-declawing
law in California, but other communities are expected to adopt
similar legislation now that the legal path is clear.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, for instance,
passed a non-binding anti-declawing resolution in 2003, and filed a
brief in support of West Hollywood when the CVMA case reached the
appellate level. Matt Dorsey, spokesperson for San Francisco city
attorney Dennis Herrera, told San Francisco Chronicle staff writer
Bob Egalko that the state Supreme Court “preserved the right of San
Francisco to enact an ordinance like this if it chose to in the
The West Hollywood ordinance was challenged by the CVMA soon
after passage. Relying on precedents involving local attempts to
ban abortion clinics, a Los Angeles judge agreed with the CVMA that
communities may not supersede the authority of state boards governing
However, writing for the majority in a 2-1 verdict reached
in June 2007 by the California Second District Court of Appeal in Los
Angeles, Justice Dennis Perluss concluded that cities and counties
have the authority to “set minimum standards for the humane treatment
of animals” within their territorial limits.
Legal researchers will find the case archived as California
Veterinary Medical Association vs. West Hollywood, S154899.
As the West Hollywood case moved through the court system,
the California legislature in September 2004 prohibited declawing
lions and tigers, largely to discourage private citizens from
keeping them as pets. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Paul
Koretz (D-West Hollywood).
In September 2006, the USDA reinterpreted the U.S. federal
Animal Welfare Act to hold that declawing and defanging captive
carnivores and primates is “no longer considered to be acceptable
when performed solely for handling or husbandry purposes,” because
these procedures “can cause considerable pain and discomfort to the
animal and may result in chronic health problems.”
The USDA banned de-clawing carnivores and primates four
years after Paw Project founder Jennifer Conrad, DVM presented
findings against declawing to the 2002 annual conference of the
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, in contrast to
the usual veterinary position on declawing pet cats, opposed
declawing other carnivores and primates in a 2004 position statement
authored by then-Toledo Zoo veterinarian Timothy Reichard.
On July 11, 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives by
unanimous voice vote passed a resolution by Representative Marcy
Kaptur (D-Ohio) which directed employees of the federal Department of
Housing & Urban Development to quit telling residents and would-be
residents of public housing that they must have their cats declawed.
Summarized Humane Society of the U.S. spokesperson Heather
Sullivan, “Over the years, distraught citizens have reported that
forced mutilation of their cats was required for them to live in
housing subsidized by HUD. Official HUD rules require no such thing,
but some agency authorities took it upon themselves to order that
cats must be declawed–an extremely painful and wholly unnecessary