Here’s some feedback from 4 veterinarians about the information in our story.
“I think it will hit home with many veterinarians. “
“This article sheds new light on the how the moral stress of declawing can negatively affect a veterinarian’s mental health. It is certainly possible that declawing is a contributing factor in the rise of suicides in the veterinary profession. “
“You present good evidence.”
“True and strong.”
Story published on May 21, 2021
“Veterinarians for the most part would rather harm ourselves than harm a pet, and unfortunately many vets do. Suicide is several times more common in the veterinary profession than in the general population.”
Many declawing vets, when asked why they are performing this inhumane amputation (declaw) procedure, respond by bringing up the suicide rate in the veterinary profession.
Why do declawing vets always bring up suicide? Are the two horrible issues related?
We know declawing negatively affects the mental health and well-being of many veterinary professionals.
We reached out to David J Bartram, a leading expert on veterinary suicide causes, and asked him what he thought about this. Here’s his reply.
“There is a concept in human psychology referred to as moral stress (stress which occurs when a professional is prevented from doing what they believe is right or most beneficial for the patient) which can potentially lead to mental health problems. It is possible that some veterinarians in US might experience moral stress if they felt obliged to declaw cats. In my view, declawing is abhorrent.” — David J Bartram.
Excerpt from a 2020 JAVMA story about the AVMA’s revised declawing position, “Dr. Stiles said the CVMA policy has helped advance regulations and end the procedure, which is now allowed in only three of Canada’s 10 provinces. She said members are happy with the change.
“There’s no competition with their neighbor declawing,” she said. “They don’t need to worry about that anymore. They can just do what they’ve been told to do, which is provide excellent medical care for their patients and not worry about medically unnecessary procedures.”
Dr. Stiles said in an interview outside the meeting she has heard that, across Canada, fewer people ask for declawing, and she believes the same is true in the U.S. She also thinks the procedure can contribute to compassion fatigue and burnout among veterinarians who are uncomfortable with declawing but work at clinics where they need to perform it.”
Excerpt from a 2020 JAVMA story about the AVMA’s revised declawing position, “Dr. Steele, who was in the same reference committee meeting, said afterward that veterinarians, especially newer associates, are struggling with having to perform onychectomies. Results of an AAFP survey of 1,200 feline practitioners indicated 51% do not declaw cats and slightly more support legislative bans on the procedure, she said. “What that tells us is they’re ethically opposed to declawing and they’re having to do it anyway,”
Excerpt from a 2020 JAVMA story about the AVMA’s revised declawing position, “Dr. Neil Moss, delegate for Utah, said he thinks most veterinarians would be relieved if declawing were banned.
Link to this 2020 JAVMA story about declawing. JAVMA declawing policy story
“There are so many causes I believe in passionately. One of them happens to be protecting members of a profession with one of the world’s highest suicide rates from emotional abuse.” — Dr Andy Roark, 2015 comment about veterinary suicide.
“We are the profession who suffers the highest rate of suicide. We make painful, emotional decisions every day.” — 2018 note from a declawing veterinarian.
Here’s a small sample of some of the notes we recently received from veterinarians about declawing:
“I think killing myself might be the only way to stop the pain I feel about declawing cats.”
“I truly believe that every one of my team members has less work stress since we stopped declawing several years ago. We feel like we are truly advocating for our patients.
We never did many but it was a huge relief to everyone when we made the commitment to completely stop. I sometimes see patients that are having post-declaw issues after having the surgery at another hospital. It makes me worry about cats that I declawed in the past and I hope that they are doing okay.”
“I used to declaw using laser and an aggressive post pain control. That was my self justification: if I don’t do it, someone will do a bad job and the cat will suffer. Another argument I used was that of course is best to give up the claws than the home. It took well intended cat lovers to point out the actual research showing long term deleterious effects and pain, and the actual shelter experiences trying to rehome these declawed cats with their behavioral issues. I can only say the last 6 years of not declawing cats have been very rewarding and in line with my oath to do no harm. I do regret ever declawing. Nowadays, my staff and myself feel like true cat advocates.”
“I still dreaded doing [declaws]! I began educating clients about the procedure and alternatives. I tried to educate the other doctors in the practice to raise their level of pain management for these kitties. Eventually, I only had a couple clients a month that requested declaw procedures and I elected to stop performing them. I have not declawed a cat since 2010 and regret sincerely ever having done this brutal procedure.”
“... [N]o longer became a good enough reason for me to declaw, and when I said no more, I let out a deep breath I didn’t even realize I’d been holding for many years.”
“As far as stopping performing declaws – I was absolutely relieved to have AAFP ask us to stop. I have hated declawing cats my whole career, but have always maintained that we do it with the most pain management possible.” (The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) banned declawing in all their Cat Friendly Practices on July 1, 2021.)
For the most part, veterinarians went to school to help animals. They are often introverted and not accustomed to seeking help. They are trained to find their own solutions to problems and they do have easy access to drugs that are designed to end a life. Are we as a society forcing them to take their own lives by forcing them to contribute to animal suffering?
Would declaw bans (and stopping other veterinary –sanctioned animal cruelty) save veterinarians? The evidence we gathered says yes.
Declaw bans save cats lives and veterinary lives!