Now’s the Time to Take a Closer Look at Declawing and Its’ Long-Lasting Effects

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It was announced this week that New York looks to be well on its’ way to becoming the first to issue a state-wide ban on onychectomy–the amputation of the final segment of toe bone as well as the attached claw–for domestic, exotic, and wild cats. The only other state that’s taken such a strong stance on what many believe to be a barbaric and unnecessary surgery is California, where eight cities have outlawed the procedure–surprising, considering most other pet-friendly nations put an end to declawing years ago.

Long considered an acceptable solution to “undesirable behavior,” in recent years the facts of onychectomy have come to light thanks in large part to the considerable efforts of one California-based veterinarian. Jennifer Conrad, DVM, has spent much of her career working with exotic animals where she’s borne witness to the aftermath of the procedure, which in layman’s terms “can have numerous long-term complications, including chronic pain, bleeding, lameness, arthritis, aggressiveness and nail regrowth.” –Houston Press, The Cruelest Cut: How Cat Declawing Became the Next Battleground for Animal Rights

It was one such case, a 550 pound Siberian mix tiger named Drifter, who first spurred Conrad into action on behalf of the millions of cats worldwide who live with chronic pain from the procedure. After being declawed, Drifter suffered from a pronounced limp and debilitating pain. In a five-hour long surgery to reattach tendons, it was discovered that Drifter’s paws contained several sizeable nuggets of nail fragments, some several centimeters in length. The difference in Drifter’s demeanor and overall physical health post-operation was nothing less than dramatic:

“After surgery he was standing up like a normal cat and walking like a normal cat,” Conrad recalls. “He never fell back down onto his wrists. Then we knew we were on to something.” –Houston Press, The Cruelest Cut: How Cat Declawing Became the Next Battleground for Animal Rights

Conrad decided to record her efforts on behalf of exotics, focusing on the stark contrast between the animal’s overall health and quality of life pre-reconstructive surgery and post. The project grew, until Conrad discovered she had a thought-provoking and scientifically sound documentary that could quite possibly galvanize the movement to end declawing that she’d begun with Drifter and strengthened through the formation of the nonprofit organization, The Paw Project. The final product, entitled The Paw Project, looks to be doing just that, garnering enthusiastic reviews from respected sources such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Village Voice.

What can you do to help end millions of cats needless suffering? Watch Conrad’s documentary, featured in the video below, then visit The Paw Project’s website where you’ll find resources and helpful tips on how you can make a difference today.

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Lydia Lee lives in Seattle with two sweet, if slightly out of control, dogs. She loves reading, food, and the opportunity to make a difference.