California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) Delegate’s Views About Declawing

May 2019

Please take 60 seconds and sign our petition to VCA Animal Hospitals-Mars & VCA Petition Link

This is a story about a veterinarian, Dr Jerry Owens, and his opinions about declawing.

Owens, 72, will be the President of the American Veterinary Medical History Society in two months and is a California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) member and delegate for Marin county.

He worked 7 days a week up until he was 68 years old and now does pro-bono veterinary work.

Owens went to vet school at UC Davis and graduated in 1971.

He is an AVMA member and also a MCVMA and REVMA member (His local vet associations)

He provided imaging consultation services to over 600 veterinary hospitals in the United States, including more than 5 VCA hospitals. (As an independent contractor veterinarian.) VCA regularly hired Owens to do work for them for over 35 years.

He has been a board certified radiologist since 1976. 

Owens was interviewed for a story in the Boston University News Service in April, 2019. https://bunewsservice.com/rethinking-cat-declawing/

Excerpt from this story, “He said he has had all of his cats declawed and feels no remorse about it.

“I did it to protect my furniture, sorry cat,” said Owens.”

———————————————————————

We interviewed Dr Owens in April/May of 2019 for this story.

We spoke to him on the phone for about 30 minutes and he also emailed us some answers to our questions.

There was a bill to ban declawing that was on the table this year and the CVMA lobbied to successfully stop it.

Owens is a CVMA delegate and he said they meet twice a year and said they go through new laws (bills) that are on the table and they take votes on them. He said that when these new laws (bills) come up, the lobbyists want the CVMA delegate’s opinions on them. He said it’s a political thing that veterinarians participate in to try to lead the lobbyists one way or another.

Owens said, “It’s not ever going to be a state law.” He also said, “There is not enough support to ban declaw.  Enforcing a law would be difficult if not impossible. What .. a declaw police force?”

We asked him these questions. Did the CVMA ever poll their member vets and professions on a declawing ban? Why don’t they poll?

Owens said, “No polls have been done to my knowledge:  Personal opinion is that most people do not like polls and lie anyway. “

 

We asked him a another question about the California anti-declawing bill.  Why do you think the legislators listen to the vet associations and not the latest studies and facts about how declawing is harmful to cats?

Owens wrote, “The legislators do not have the time or inclination to do any research themselves. The CVMA gives them the facts as it sees it.  I am sure that the “latest studies” as to say were brought up but likely denied as they were not that convincing.  just a guess, but likely correct.  Honestly, I think that you are spinning your wheels to nowhere on this subject. Why can’t you just let it go ??”

 

Are there any long term negative consequences to declawing a cat?

Owens said, “If it’s done correctly there are no consequences long-term. There’s pain for about a week to 10 days.”

 

We asked him this. Declawing was invented in the 50’s by an AVMA vet, Misener. Then the American vet profession promoted it as an easy way to stop cat scratching. Why do you think that there were no studies done to see how it affected the health and well-being of a cat?

Owens answered, “It was never “invented”  (bad choice of words.)  It seemed to be a logical solution to a problem and did work. Why do a study when the surgery was a success and pet owners are happy ??”

 

Around 25 years ago Owens declawed his own cats with the guillotine method.

He told us, “Some of the toes on my cat were not done correctly.” He said he had to re-declaw his cat about 10 years later because some of the nails grew back.

 

Owens was asked what is the best age to declaw a cat.

Owens said, “No best age to declaw a cat.  I would recommend as an adult over 2 years and only after the owners have tried to teach the cat not to claw the furniture. “

 

We asked Owens about VCA Canada stopping declawing in 2018.

Owens said, “They made a rule saying there’s no declaws and it’s purely political. I guarantee you it’s because they are getting pushed by animal rights people thinking it’s terrible.”

He said that the company that owns VCA, Mars Inc. is calling the shots and did that because it would be good for their public relations.

 

He was asked, “So you don’t think that VCA Canada stopped declawing because they know that it harms the welfare of cats and they call it inhumane and cruel?”

Owens said, “Oh no, no. I can guarantee you they do everything to make money. The whole thing with Mars, Banfield, VCA, is to make money.”

He said he can’t prove it but said, “I guarantee it’s politics” and “purely bait.”

He said that they want to look good in the eye of the public so more people will go to VCA hospitals.

Owens said, “It says, VCA is a nice hospital system, we don’t allow declawing cats because we like cats.”

“The average person is saying, well my vet declaws cats so he must be a jerk so I’m going to go to VCA.”

He said it’s a way to get more business, has nothing to do with making the short amount of money on declawing, and VCA is looking beyond that.

 

Owens said that 25% of vets in the U.S work for the Mars family. He said Mars is starting to control veterinary medicine in the U.S. and it “scares the crap” out of the rest of them.

Owens said, “Why should one family control veterinary medicine in the U.S?” Owens said. He went on to say that they are calling the shots and what should or shouldn’t be done in vet medicine.

 

He was asked about what he thinks about Canadian veterinarians voting to ban declawing in their country. (So far 6 Provinces have banned declawing.)

He said that he doesn’t know why Canadian DVMs have voted to ban declawing.

 

Owens said, “There are a lot of veterinarians that believe in declaws in Canada and will continue to declaw cats whether there is a law against it or not.”

He said that nobody will sue them or hurt them and they will continue to declaw because the public wants it. He said that animals are property.

Owens said, “There is no way they can enforce that law, no way. What are they going to do, have a declaw police?”

 

Owens was asked if declawing was banned in America, would the same thing happen.

Owens said, “Absolutely, if I was a veterinarian, I’d say, screw it, I’m declawing this cat anyway, because it’s in the best interests of this client.” He reiterated that animals are property.

 

Owens was asked about the newest studies that show declawing causes pain, harms the welfare of cats, and causes behavioral issues.

Owens said, “You can twist numbers around. You can come up with any kind of conclusion. Studies get faked all the time. People lie on the questionnaires and they lie when they put the data together.”

He said the latest studies could be false and that peer reviewed studies don’t mean anything because you don’t have enough data to make it fact. He said someone else could come up with the opposite conclusion.

He said, “I am not convinced that any real studies have been done to prove the hypothesis one way or the other.”

 

Owens was asked about all the declawed cats who are thrown away to shelters/rescues because of behavioral issues from their declaw procedures and many of them are euthanized. We told him that shelters have provided this information.

Owens said, “That’s a lie, someone is making that up. I think that’s’ garbage. People are taking this out of context or exaggerating. I guarantee this is all fake. It’s not accurate.”

We informed him that shelter directors and people who work at shelters put this information out all the time.

Owens said, “That’s all hearsay. It doesn’t mean anything. I wouldn’t believe a shelter person for all the tea in China that somebody has got an opinion. An opinion is an opinion. It’s not scientific evidence.”

He said nothing has been proven to him or about 90% of the other veterinarians that it is real.

 

He was asked if he thinks that the veterinarians who are still declawing cats are doing it because they don’t see any problems and believe that if it is done correctly then it isn’t going to cause problems with a cat.

Owens said, “That’s correct, yep.”

He said some vets are pro-animal rights and would disagree with that statement and they won’t declaw because they think it is inhumane.

Owens went on to say, “The average veterinarian, who is trying to do good for his clients, will declaw a cat.”

 

Owens was asked about the humane options to declawing.

He said that not all cats will use scratching posts and most people won’t take the time to train their cats.

 

Owens was asked, “Should dogs who scratch hardwood floors and doors ever be declawed? What if the owner insists?”

His answer, “Absurd suggestion to declaw a dog. Get a rug.  I would remove a dog’s claws for medical reasons only.”

Owens was asked if he would advocate for removing the teeth from puppies if they were destroying furniture.

His reply, “I do not advise the removal of teeth from puppies. That is absurd. Puppies chew as they grow… normal puppy behavior.”

We asked him this follow-up question.

Cat scratching is normal and necessary behavior. Why would you condone declawing cats for normal feline behavior when there are always humane options?

Owens said, “Scratching is normal for cats, but when the cat destroys good furniture – that is not acceptable to many, including myself.”

Owens talked about how the veterinary profession has changed since the 70’s.

He said the human-animal bond is stronger now. He said that people didn’t care as much about their pets as they do now.

We asked him why he thinks that the movement to end declawing is growing in the veterinary profession and many vets are not doing declaws anymore.

Owens answered, “Many DVMs and cat owners are more “touchy feely” today than in prior years. –  say 50 years ago.  Part of this is due to more females in the veterinary profession and more gays and lesbians than in the public at large.”

 

—–

Owens emailed us more statements for this story on May 18, 2019.

1.      A declaw surgery if done correctly should not have any short term or long-term complications. The type of the surgery performed, coupled with  the skill of the surgeon are important points to consider; side effects are likely more common with less skilled surgeons. In most instances, no visible pain or discomfort is noticed 10-14 days after the surgery.
 
2.      The declaw surgery is a valid surgery for some pet owners if the cat frequently scratches the owner or the owner’s family or other animals, or is destroying valuable furniture and the cat cannot be satisfied with a scratch pad or a scratching post. This is especially true if the owner cannot train his/her cat not to scratch.   
 
3.      The decision to have the declaw performed should be based on a mutual agreement between the owner and the veterinarian. This needs to be done with the veterinarian’s understanding the owner’s needs and both parties need to be in agreement that declawing the cat is the best option available.  
 
4.      Complications such as digital pain, lameness and nail regrowth are most often due to faulty technique, such as an incomplete  digital amputation or . Complications to due to a granuloma, neuroma or neuritis at the site of amputation.
 

5.  Cats are property and what a cat owner desires to do to the cat should not be legally mandated unless it causes harm or is perceived as animal cruelty.

 
6.    Animal shelters are organized by consumers. The veterinarians employed at a shelter or humane society do not mandate policy; policy is mandated by a board of trustees of the non-profit organization.
 
7.      Fewer veterinarians today perform declaw procedures as was done previously.  This is likely true due to client education of alternatives and because current small animal practitioners are primary of the female gender and are often  more sympathetic and more concerned about their feelings toward animal welfare than their peers were in previous decades when small animal practitioners were mostly men.
 
8.      When a veterinary clinic refuses to perform a declaw procedure, that clinic may be perceived as being more sympathetic and empathetic than a clinic that does perform declaw surgeries. For some clients, when choosing a veterinarian, the client may make his/her choice based on this statement. Therefore, not declawing is likely a marketing tactic to attract new clients.
 
9.      When a cat no longer has nails to defend itself, it adapts quite well when challenged by another animal. The fight concept may take over the fight thought. The feet and claws are used to swat at other animals or to hold prey; swatting and hissing are part of the body language one feline uses to communicate with other felines, other animals or human beings.
 
10.  There has never been convincing proof to me that there are serious personality changes or back pain post declaw that causes many owners to give their cats up to rescue organizations or shelters, or that the declawed cat is an unhappy or unfit pet within a household. Where is the proof? How scientific is the data and was the sample large enough to make generalizations and conclusions?
 
11.  Onychectomy is a form of cosmetic surgery.  Other cosmetic surgeries performed include: tail amputation, amputation of the first digit or dew claw in dogs, or ear cropping in certain breeds. Tail docking is essential in sheep and is a breed standard in many dog breeds as well.  Consider certain dog breeds such as the Doberman Pinscher, Pointer, Schnauzer, some spaniels and others.