We applaud all the tireless work that the director/founder, staff, and volunteers of The A.N.N.A Shelter do to help animals in Erie, PA.
Unfortunately The ANNA Shelter also performs and profits from declawing in their WELLNESS Centers.
As far as we know, there are only 2 animal shelters in America that perform declawing in their Wellness Centers/Clinics. The other one is the Houston Humane Society.
Declawing is inhumane, mutilating, and always harms the long term health and well-being of a cat.
Declawing is banned in 42 countries and not performed in most of the other countries of the world.
Declawing is banned in New York State (July 2019), 8 cities in CA, St Louis, and Denver.
VCA Hospitals and Banfield banned declawing in their clinics in Jan. 2020.
American Assoc. of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association are strongly opposed to declawing.
We tried to inspire Ruth Thompson, director/founder of The ANNA Shelter, in 2018 to take a stand against declawing and stop providing it in her WELLNESS Centers but she just gave us excuses to not stop.
We were respectful and educational in our emails but she ended her email with this statement, “I don’t like being bullied any more then you do.”
Not once did we threaten or bully her. We tried to educate her about declawing and how it doesn’t guarantee a cat will stay in a home and in fact many cats are relinquished to shelters/rescues because of the behavioral issues they develop from their toe bone amputations.
In 2018 Ruth said she had 2 veterinarians who declaw cats and in 2020 she said she has 3 veterinarians who perform declaws. According to employees who work at the ANNA Shelter Wellness Centers, Dr Jessical Bahl, Dr Jean McInerney, and Dr Sarah Zeigler perform the declaws.
We tried to inspire Ruth in a couple emails in 2018 and this is what she said about why her WELLNESS Centers perform declaws. “We try not give an opinion one way or the other. We use scratching posts and put flyers in the adoption packs for soft paws and trim the cats nails before they leave for their new homes. We really do truly care about the welfare of the cats – but with 141 at the shelter right now and at least 12 to 15 calls a day about people wanting to bring more in and the overwhelming feral cat dilemma nationwide – I guess if I had to pick a life in a shelter, starving on the street or worse yet ending up in a kill shelter and being euthanized – I would choose to be declawed and live in a home. I know that sounds strange but the problem is so much bigger then even I imagined 15 years ago when I opened the shelter. The number of unwanted cats in this country is an epidemic and every shelter I know of is full. So if someone is willing to adopt a cat and the only way they’ll do so is to have it declawed…I guess it’s the lesser of the other evils I listed above.”
In May 2020 we sent her a polite and educational email to try to inspire her to protect cats from this cruelty and harm by not providing declawing in her WELLNESS Centers but she just made excuses.
We sent her new data, studies, and information that proved how bad declawing is for cats and how it doesn’t guarantee a cat will stay in a home and told her in fact, the opposite often happens where declawed cats are abandoned because of the behavioral issues they developed from their toe bone amputations.
We sent her links to these printable brochures to use at their shelter and even offered to pay for printing them.
1) We did a nationwide campaign to inspire pet stores to only use Adoption Partners who don’t condone and perform declawing and it was very successful. Pet Supplies Plus, Chowhound, and Petco did the right thing and only have Adoption Partners who put the welfare of cats first and who don’t condone and perform this inhumane amputation procedure on their innocent and vulnerable cats.
We started the campaign after we were told about a rescue in Schnecksville, PA that was advertising declawing on their website and that was in a Petco store. We asked Petco if they are ok with their adoption partner condoning and advertising declawing and they wrote us back and said, “Petco and the Petco Foundation do not support the practice of declawing unless it is a medical necessity. We have reached out to (name of rescue) to express our concern with their listing declawing as a service and let them know that we prohibit the promotion of declawing in Petco stores. A representative from the organization has agreed to no longer promote declawing and will remove the information from their website and other materials.”
(The only pet store that didn’t want to be part of the solution to help end this cat cruelty by using humane adoption partners who don’t condone and perform declawing was Petsmart.)
We never made any calls to places that sponsor the ANNA Shelter and suggested or demanded that they stop. We asked Ruth to give us specifics about her comment but she never did.
The ANNA Shelter was showing their cats in the Erie Pet Supplies Plus so the store replaced them with a rescue that is against declawing and has adopters sign a no-declaw contract.
2) We never deleted any of Ruth’s comments on our facebook page and in fact have saved all of them.
Here are Ruth Thompson’s, the director/founder of the ANNA Shelter, two emails that she sent to us.
May 30, 2020.
“Quite honestly…I think a lot of your message is lost in the delivery. Or as my dad used to…”It’s not WHAT you say…but HOW you say it”…if that makes sense at all. To go around making phone calls to places that sponsor us and suggest or demand they stop, in my opinion, makes you come off as a bully and someone who doesn’t fully grasp the reality of owning/working/and truly saving animals lives day in and day out. I wish you could spend a week in a true no kill shelter like mine and see how many animals are abused, neglected and unwanted. I think it’s funny that after your pitch to Pet Supplies Plus corporate got us “kicked out” of their stores – the shelter they replaced us with has had numerous animal cruelty charges against them and the veterinarian on their Board of Directors does declaw routinely at her privately owned clinic. But I’m not a trouble maker and have a lot more to do actually saving animals lives that I’ve let it go and wished them luck. We just advise our supporter to not patronize their stores.
As I’ve explained to you before our shelter doesn’t “promote” declawing. That word has meaning and it’s not correct in this situation. Yes our clinics declaw. 3 of our 6 veterinarians on staff offer that surgery. As I’ve told you before the procedure and their techniques are not barbaric – we use state of the art equipment and ample pain medication to make it as easy as possible as well as have parameters in place on what cats they will declaw and when they won’t do the surgery – i.e. age, weight, etc. Just like being ProLife or ProChoice – I don’t take a stand either way as either would effect the animals in my care and their lives are too precious for me to make that statement publicly. My personal opinion is just that. I’ve been asked to ban Pit Bull adoptions; not participate in TNR; etc. And to take it one step further…spay/neuter (ear tipping on feral cats) are ELECTVICE SURGIERS that cause pain and suffering and could even cause death – yet all of us in the shelter community wouldn’t imagine NOT doing it.
Honestly, I blog with over 120 other shelter directors/managers across the county and your organization has come up in a few conversations. The advise I had been given was to “say what she wants to hear…and she’ll go away” but that’s not my style. I appreciate your passion for your cause and dedication to it (quite honestly I’m envious of the time you have to pursue your crusade) and I respect your right to your opinion. I just think your approach needs reevaluated. Using generalizations and half truths aren’t fair or accurate…I’ve seen bits and pieces of my responses to you posted but none at length. I’ve even had my comments and responses to yours deleted from your page…but all of that’s ok.
So at least to set the record straight – I – the ANNA Shelter or our Wellness Centers – do NOT PROMOTE declawing. We offer alternatives; explain the surgery and its difficulties; but ultimately let the pet owner make the decision for THEIR pet living in THEIR home.
Thanks – Ruth”
She also sent us this response on May 31, 2020.
“Something for you to think about…
It’s Sunday morning a 8am and I’m driving to the shelter to medicate 38 of the 107 cats in our care who have either upper respiratory issues or need pain meds post surgery (2 hit by car and one had to have his front leg amputated after being tortured by some neighborhood kids)…and I was thinking about your email yesterday and how I just don’t think you and I are on the same page…here’s how our May played out…
Currently – we have 54 dogs, 107 cats, 44 kittens in foster, 3 Guinea pigs, 4 goats, 4 horses and a pig in rescue. 31 of these animals came in from our over active Cruelty Division – of those 31 – 2 dogs had Drain-O poured all over their bodies during a domestic dispute suffering 3rd degree burns over 70% of their bodies; an 8 week old kitten was found in alley duct taped like a burrito so tight he has 2 broken ribs and a broken leg; 2 horses were left in a small barn after their owners moved out of the area…4 months later they were finally discovered near death but are safe with us now. I lay in bed at night and think of all of the animals that rely on us for their daily survival…or walk through the shelter and see the fear and uncertainty in their eyes when they just have been brought in…or I spend countless hours trying to convince an animal that has every reason to distrust humans that we’re not all bad…it can consume me. All of this as the world is facing a pandemic that has cancelled all of my fundraisers (which make up 40% of my budget) – thankfully our community is continuing to support us but it’s been scary to say the least – and I realize we are caring for animals and when you’re worried about paying your rent the last thing you can do is donate to an animal shelter. So ya, I’m dealing with financial concerns too…but that takes a back burner when I walk in the shelter EVERY DAY and focus on caring for the animals…I don’t worry about money…my faith is strong. However, compassion fatigue is real. I don’t expect you to understand my world but I’m hoping this helps you to respect it a little more. We are “boots on the ground”.
So I don’t honestly have the energy, time or finances to commit myself to a cause such as yours but since YOU do here a few things I would like you to consider:
*I know of 12 shelters/rescues/foster based networks that don’t/won’t take a stand on declaw right within my tri-state area. So when you say just my shelter and one other allow post adoption declaws – I know your information isn’t correct. Maybe do some better research before rallying your troops.
*14 veterinarians in the Erie are ALONE do declawing DAILY – I’m sure country wide that number is much higher. Posting the names of private individuals or their clinics who are making six figures a year FOR PROFIT seems more of the way to go to champion your cause rather then trying to get large multi-million dollar companies to boycott helping NON PROFITS fulfil their mission. And check into those veterinarians and how they are affiliated with other shelters/rescues – ie Board Members, running their clinics, etc who do declaw.
*Lastly, use your time to lobby EVERY state to BAN DECLAW. I would think if I had the time you do – that’s what I would be doing. Going straight to the top – making a fuss where it matters. Putting pressure on those who CAN MAKE A CHANGE so that the rest of us don’t have to make that difficult decision. Have your followers email, call and lobby their legislatures – not those of us trying to save the animals. Trying to flood my inbox (only yours and 2 others – so I guess that’s not really “flooding” ) isn’t nearly as effective as going to where someone could actually make this problem go away.
So even though my commute to the shelter is only 15 minutes…I had some ideas I wanted to share.
Truth be told, I think you’d actually like me if we ever met…we’ve both dedicated our lives to our passions. I don’t expect or want a response. Just reading this and trying to understand where I’m coming from is all I need/want.
We looked into those things that Ruth mentioned in her 2nd email and found this.
1) We are reaching out to all the shelters and rescues in the Erie area and in Pennsylvania and are finding that they all have taken a stand against declawing by educating the public about how it’s bad for cats and some even have no-declaw contracts for their adopters. We have listed them at the end of this story.
2) The ANNA Shelter’s WELLNESS Center has the cheapest declaw in the Erie, PA area at $130. Here’s more about this story. ANNA Shelter has the cheapest declaw in town
3) We don’t work on the legislative part of this cause. The Paw Project does that type of work. If there are call to actions for the bills we often share the PawProject.org’s posts or do a post to alert people about the call to action.
Ruth said, “Putting pressure on those who CAN MAKE A CHANGE so that the rest of us don’t have to make that difficult decision. ”
It’s not a difficult decision to stop performing declawing in her WELLNESS Centers.
The only negative to it for Ruth would be a the loss of the thousands of dollars each year that her WELLNESS Centers make from declawing.
It’s easy to handout educational brochures about how declawing is bad for cats and educate people about how there are easy, humane options.
Declawing positions of shelters/rescues in the Erie, PA area and the state of Pennsylvania.
Central PA Humane Society
“ The Central PA Humane Society (CPHS) does not believe in declawing of cats. We try to educate potential adopters about the long term physical and mental side effects that declawing can cause a cat. We have a clause in our adoption application that must be initialed that they agree with the statement which reads, “I understand that the procedure of declawing a cat can have long term health and happiness effects, due to the painful and inhumane nature of toe amputation. I have read this statement and agree that I will NOT have this cat declawed”
We also offer handouts that further explain declawing and what it actually is. Many people do not realize the true nature of a cat declaw and are horrified once they are educated about it. CPHS also has a clause in their adoption contract that the adopter must initial that they will not declaw the cat they are adopting.
We do have declawed cats surrendered to us regularly. We also do have them come in as strays on a regular basis. If someone wishes to surrender a declawed cat we always ask why.
If it is a litterbox issue we then talk to the owner about the fact that the cat is probably doing this because of pain and discomfort when using the litter box. Again a lot of people are just not educated and most often we can have a discussion and the owner is then happy to work with the cat and purchase different litter options to try and see if the litter box issues can be resolved. A lot of the declawed cats we do take as surrenders do have behavioral issues. In some cases where the cat has extreme aggressive behavior we will do xrays of the paws, and we have done some surgeries to repair splintered paws and bone growth defects from a botched declaw. We are happy to say that these cats we have adopted post surgery and have not had further issues. “
Shelter Manager CPHS
Erie Humane Society
The Erie Humane Society is progressive in continually advancing our knowledge on providing the best care possible for all pets in our community. We firmly believe through research and the knowledge we maintain from working each day with stray and neglected pets that many people falsely assume that declawing their cat is just like trimming your nails or getting a manicure. In reality, it is a painful and permanently crippling procedure. We have found through studies and discussions with veternarians that declawing a cat is the equivalent of cutting a persons fingers off at the first knuckle. This is not a practice we choose to condone at the Erie Humane Society. The Erie Humane Society staff is working to become a certified Fear Free shelter and through abundant education we understand that clawing is a natural, healthy and important behavior that can be conducive to their well being if given the appropriate outlets.”
Only 10% of the cats surrendered to the Erie Humane Society are front declawed and of those cats most have behavioral issues with biting and not wanting to use the litter pan. We do work actively with those cats to try and rehabilitate their behaviors but we do understand that can be challenging as this typically is trauma induced possibly through phantom pains or potentially surgery that was not performed correctly by experiencing bone regrowth etc.”
Nicole, Executive Director EHS
Orphan Angels Rescue Cat Sanctuary and Adoption Center
“Orphan Angels believes that declawing is inhumane and is never in the best interest for the cat. We do not allow any of our adopted cats to be declawed, it is in our adoption contract.
Declawing is a digit amputation that is non-therapeutic. The procedure removes the last bone in the foot. Not JUST the nail is being removed. It is a major surgery that some never get over. It causes more harm than good by causing chronic pain, lameness, nerve damage, etc. Because of this pain cats then avoid the litterbox.
Over and over we see owners surrender their cats due to behavioral issues. Due to the chronic pain, cats will then avoid the litterbox causing damage to owners’ property.
Our shelter is very firm to not adopt to an owner that plans on declawing. Instead, we prefer to educate with alternative options. Unfortunately, the truth of declawing has not yet become common knowledge for feline owners.
We would like for that to change. We stand firm and strong against declawing and hope that one day it is not even an option so that we can rest easy knowing our beloved shelter cats that get adopted do not face this devastating procedure that can weigh so heavy on their future of being abandoned, yet again.
It is my understanding that other shelters in our community have the same beliefs. The Erie Humane Society too does not condone declawing for their adopted kitties. It is very encouraging that other shelters stand with us in regard to declawing. Together we can continue to save cats from experiencing a painful and an unnecessary surgery. “
Because You Care Animal Rescue
“We counsel adopters at the time of adoption, explaining what declawing involves and discouraging them from declawing.”
Centre County Paws
State College, PA
“Our volunteer Adoption Counselors discuss the reality of declawing and use that information to strongly encourage adopters and visitors to seek alternatives to declawing. We like to also direct visitors to our website and various other great sites like Jackson Galaxy’s YouTube channel for more information. https://centrecountypaws.org/resources/behavioral-education/declawing-alternatives”
Huntingdon County Humane Society
They educate adopters on alternative choices and said if an adopter mentions that they want to declaw, they will discuss how it is bad for cats. They said it is not something they see or hear much about in their rural area.
Mending Hearts Animal Rescue
“Our policy is we will not adopt a cat over 1 year if the new potential owner plans in declawing. Under 1 year, we do stress what’s involved. I personally have told folks that I think everyone should watch a video of what’s involved before making the decision.”
Here are the emails our Exec. Director sent to Ruth Thompson.
May 30, 2o2o
It is a common misconception among veterinary professionals that scratching behavior is one of the most common reasons for relinquishment of cats to shelters. Our experience and that of shelter operators has taught us differently. Other problems, house soiling and aggression, are listed as the top two behavioral reasons cats lose their homes. Scratching behavior is far down the list, right next to reasons like the cat requires too much attention, and scratching is rarely a reason given for relinquishment.”
Here are a couple notes I received from people who run shelters/rescues and maybe their position on declawing will help you see the light. “Hi City,
I wanted to speak out about Milo’s Sanctuary, Inc. & Special Needs Cat Rescue, Inc. and our declawing policy.
Having been a veterinarian technician and rescuing/fostering cats for over 20 years I can tell you firsthand about the mutilation of these animals for the sake of “convenience”. I saw a declaw performed once and only once. I left the surgery room crying and proceed to head to the bathroom to vomit. The cat woke up in agony and blood soaked bandages. People have argued with me countless times about the different types of declawing procedures and my answer is this, it causes great harm and pain for an unnecessary and extremely painful procedure that should have been outlawed a long time ago. It’s barbaric, cruel and causes these beautiful creatures untoward mental and physical pain.
I have rescued many cats from the shelter and the streets that have been declawed and they are usually scared and sometimes aggressive with litter box issues because they know they are vulnerable and they have no way to defend themselves. Also they come home from the declawing and get into the litter box and it causes them pain to do what comes natural which is to scratch to cover their eliminations. They then associate the litter box with pain, stop using the litter box and end up in the shelter or on the streets.
Many have argued that declawing is better than dying in a shelter. Is it? Is it okay to take an animal amputate their “fingers” and then when they start to exhibit what humans deem “bad” behaviors such as aggression or litter box avoidance they then are euthanized anyway or dumped on the streets or in a shelter. So, how are we as “rescuers” doing them a service by allowing someone to mutilate them for the sake of a “couch”.
There are many ways to train a cat to scratch on appropriate surfaces and by trimming the nails regularly or using “soft paws” you not only save a life but you do something far greater, you end the barbaric practice of mutilation.
Milo’s Sanctuary is a registered 501(c)(3) and we have our potential adopters sign a legally binding contract that states the cat will not be declawed for any reason. If they do declaw the cat (which I have never had happen) we have the right to reclaim the cat and sue them for breach of contract and trust me I would do just that.
I want to introduce you to Lolli Lulu, 16 years old after her human died she was dumped in the shelter for being aggressive and the shelter was going to kill her before we stepped in and saved her life. She is declawed, she will bite anyone who touches her feet and has degenerative arthritis in her front shoulders because when you amputate their toes you change their balance and the way they walk and it causes physiological issues.
Please help to stop this horrendous practice of mutilation and pain!
Another one, “Dear City,
Our adoption contract stipulates that the cat not be declawed and we have them sign an agreement that if they do they may be financially liable for anything the cat needs relating to the declaw.
Prior to instituting this stipulation, we have had a few returned that were declawed and each one was returned for either inappropriate urination
or biting. They are very difficult for us to adopt out.
Declawing is completely unnecessary. It is a painful, inhumane procedure with potential lifelong complications. It provides no benefit whatsoever to the cat and does not guarantee that a declawed cat will stay in its home. There are too many humane alternatives to justify continuing this barbaric surgery.
Declawed Mookie’s owners surrendered her to a kill shelter. It states on the surrender paperwork that the owners claim she began to bite after the declaw. We rescued Mookie three years ago but have not been able to place her due to biting.
Patricia H. Ladew Foundation, Inc.
Since you told me this, “12 shelters/rescues/foster based networks that don’t/won’t take a stand on declaw right within my tri-state area,” we are now doing a lot of research about the declawing position of shelters/rescues in your area.