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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Malibu Animal Welfare Activist and Veterinarian Campaigns for Statewide Ban on Declawing

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Malibuite and Paw Project founder Jennifer Conrad is committed to legislating an end to the practice of declawing cats. When she isn't campaigning for the cause she's volunteering her time to help surgically repair some of the damage she says is caused to big cats by the controversial surgery.
 “I grew up in Malibu,” Conrad told the Malibu Surfside News in a recent interview. ”I became a vet to protect animals from harm. I was horrified when I learned about the common practice of onychectomy,” the amputation of a cat's toe bones commonly referred to as declawing.
“This is not what vets should be doing,” Conrad said.
Conrad compares the surgery to amputating a human's finger bones to the first joint. She says that vets often use a nail clipper to perform the surgery, leaving bone fragments behind to fester in the cat's paws.
Conrad's concern over the procedure continued after she became a vet.
“I started repairing the feet of big cats that that had been declawed,” she said. They couldn't walk. Now they could.”
The repair process is time-consuming microsurgery that involves removing bone fragments, cleaning out infected material and reattaching tendons severed during the declawing surgery. It can take as long as three hours per paw.
“These cats will never have the full, normal function, but reattaching the tendons restores some extension and flexion of the paws,” Conrad said.
“I began looking at domestic cats,” Conrad said. She explained that 25 percent of house cats, 22 million or more, have been declawed. “It's a huge problem but it goes under the radar.”
Conrad said that the surgery can cause pain from bone fragments, scaring, tendon damage, infections and behavioral issues that include biting, inability to use its litter box,
“There is no reason to do this,” Conrad said. “Much of the rest of the world has banned declawing”
Malibu residents have twice attempted to pass a local declawing ordinance. Conrad said she is disappointed that the same small number of Malibu politicians prevented the passage of a Malibu declawing ban.
In 2003, the Malibu City Council, at the request of councilmember Joan House, voted to approve a resolution condemning the practice of declawing, but did not agree to an ordinance.
In 2009, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich proposed a declawing ordinance.
Councilmembers John Sibert and Sharon Barovsky expressed vehement opposition to the measure.
 Sibert described the an as “purely symbolic,” and “without rationale.”
 Declawing has now been banned  in much of the European Union, as well as Switzerland, Brazil and Australia.
In California, the cities of Los Angeles, Culver City, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Berkeley have passed declawing bans.
West Hollywood is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its declawing ordinance on Monday, April 29, with a special, free screening of a documentary on the Paw Project.
More information on the Paw Project and the upcoming screening event is available at  www.pawproject.com

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