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Models & CAPS

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Imagine you just found the perfect apartment. It's not only close to work, but it includes all utilities, a washer and dryer, and, shockingly enough, it's downright affordable. You pinch yourself to make sure it isn't a dream, this is too good to be true... until you see the fine print and read that your landlord requires you to declaw and devocalize Princess Meow-Meow. The lovely dream suddenly becomes a nightmare.

Sadly, this is not a hypothetical situation. Many people have to face such demands in order to live in a nice home. Perfect living arrangements are obtainable at the expense of a dog's vocal chords or a cat's sharp claws and many veterinarians go ahead with the barbaric procedure.

It's cruel and unfair, but is anybody doing ANYTHING about it?

The answer is simple: yes.

"I had always thought that declawing was barbaric and shouldn't be done [...] And the more I learned of it, the more apparent it became that this was a procedure being done for the convenience of people without any real thought to the consequences to the animal."

- Assemblyman Nava to the LA Times

Companion animals have a friend of their own in the California legislature. Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D - Santa Barbara) recently introduced legislation (Assembly Bill 2743) that would ban California landlords from forcing tenants to declaw or devocalize their four-legged family members. The sneaky apartment owners will no longer be able to give preference or special treatment to tenants who take their cat or dog to the vet for the inhumane procedures.

Interestingly enough, one of the largest landlord associations in the state, the California Apartment Association, supports the bill. They encourage landlords to rely on pet deposits and make pet owners responsible for whatever damage Fifi and Fido unleash on said property (sort of like the security deposit university kids pay in case their drunken frat parties get out of control). After all, isn't the human 100% responsible?

Others argue that the bill doesn't go far enough. Many cities in California and elsewhere in the country have banned the practice of declawing and devocalizing altogether. Assemblyman Nava considered introducing a bill to ban both procedures, but decided to narrow down the measure in hopes of reaching the right direction one step at a time. After all, doesn't everybody have a cruelty switch that can easily be turned off with education and persuasion?

Apparently not.

Groups such as the California Veterinary Medical Association disagree with the bill. They say the legislation has claims about declawing that are not substantiated with sufficient research (there's always a loophole, folks!). According to them, statements claiming that felines change behavior after the surgery are hardly proven.

Anyone who has ever gone through the torturous ordeal of trimming nails would agree that feisty, purring companions are VERY protective of their claws. Why would a group composed of experts in the veterinary field overlook that? Why do several European countries, such as England and Germany, made the practice illegal?

Strange, isn't it?

Declawing- or onychectomy- must be done by a veterinarian and is often a non-therapeutic surgical procedure done with a laser, scalpel, or clippers (ouch?). The surgery is often performed so Fifi won't damage the human's favorite chair. Organizations such as Cats International compare it to "amputating a person's finger or toe at the first knuckle." As a result, the mutilated pet won't be able to grow the claws again - a reality many owners regret when they notice a significant change in the cat's behavior, including aggression and litter box avoidance. The Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets defines devocalization as a nonessential "convenience" surgery in which vocal cords are cut to suppress or remove an animal's voice. Some animals struggle to breathe, choke on food and water, and gag uncontrollably for the rest of their lives. Others die due to complications. If you want a clearer picture, imagine a doctor removing your finger and rendering you speechless- not a pretty site, now is it?

Regardless of both dissenting sides, such procedures are done for the convenience of humans, not the other way around. By dedicating more time to observing, grooming, and actually taking care of either felines or canines, the behavioral problems that lead to destroyed furniture or annoyed neighbors can be easily managed without the need of surgery (taking your dog out more often, cleaning the litter box, PLAYING, going for a yearly vet checkup, and buying a scratching post are all good ways to start).

Dealing with scratchy and noisy but happy pets is part of the beautiful experience of loving a companion animal. The easy way out, surgery, isn't always the best decision. Don't let your landlord (or anyone for that matter) tell you otherwise.

More Information:

Reason AB 2743 is Necessary

What YOU can do: the Paw Project

Who devocalizes? What do the dogs sound like?

Hear what animal experts say

Bea's Beat

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Deborah Howard

Deborah Howard

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Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)
759 CJC Hwy., #332
Cohasset, MA 02025
p: 339-309-0272
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If you purchased a sick or dying puppy from Barkworks or Happiness is Pets, you may be able to join consumer class action lawsuits. The first step is to fill out the CAPS complaint form.

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