When America’s Favorite Veterinarians Knew Better, Did They Do Better?

October 31, 2018
This is a follow-up story to see if any of the top 10 finalists in the infamous 2015  AVMA/AVMF’s America’s Favorite Veterinarian contest stopped declawing.

What we found is that 2 of the finalists in the top ten stopped declawing shortly after the contest was cancelled and one more stopped declawing sometime in the last few years.

The AVMA/AVMF cancelled this contest because Dr Gary Richter, the only vet in the top ten who didn’t declaw cats, was going to win. Thousands of people who cared about the welfare of cats were voting for him.
  A handful of people said some inappropriate things to a few of the contestants and the AVMA/AVMF played the victim game and canceled the contest. They said a  “vicious cyberbullying attack disrupted and contaminated the election process.”

The AVMF gave the 20 finalists the “America’s Favorite Veterinarian” award and $500.

Here are the facts about what happened in this contest, in my press release. http://citythekitty.org/city-the-kittys-americas-favorite-veterinarian-press-release/

For some strange reason the AVMA has deleted their 2015 press release about this contest.

In a story in The Ledger, a Florida newspaper, a spokesperson for the AVMF said the contest finalists “believe that declawing cats remains a last resort, but viable, alternative to separating pets from their owners when the animal’s behavior cannot be controlled any other way.”
The AVMF also stated on their website that this contest honored and recognized those entrusted to preserve and protect the health and well-being of animals.
We have seen more studies and information in the last 3 years that show how declawing always harms the long term health and well-being of a cat, no matter what tool is used to amputate a cat’s toe bones and claws.  When people know better, they usually do better.

I reached out to the 10 finalists in this contest in an email to ask them if they have stopped declawing and asked them their reasons for stopping or if they don’t declaw cats, why did they stop.

(Dr Marcy Hammerle and Dr Mitsie Vargas stopped declawing cats in 2015, shortly after the contest was cancelled.)
The only responses I received were from Dr Hammerle, Dr Vargas, and Dr Richter.
Since I never received a response from any of the other finalists to hear back if they’ve stopped doing this inhumane amputation procedure on cats, I had my researchers look into it. They made calls posing as  a first time cat owner to each practice and asked for a price for a declaw and asked other important questions.
Here are the results.

The Top Ten Finalists in the AVMF America’s Favorite Veterinarian Contest.

Dr Tina Roggenbeck- Veterinary Health Center in Saginaw, Michigan. Their employee said that they do not declaw cats anymore. I reached out to Dr Roggenbeck to ask her when and why she stopped declawing but never received a reply.

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Dr Stacey Langlinais- Bienville Animal Medical Center, Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  (This is an AAHA Hospital)
Researcher called to ask for a price of a neuter/declaw. The employee actually stated that they have a Kitten Package and starting prices for a neuter/2 paw declaw is $227.27 and a neuter/4 paw declaw is $278. No consultation appointment is needed and they recommend blood work ($57) and additional pain meds. ($55) The employee said that Dr Stacy performs declaws and only does surgeries on Fridays.

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Dr James Radcliffe- Town & Country Animal Hospital in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Employee said that all their doctors do declaws, including Dr Radcliffe, and a spay/declaw is $203.
When asked if they have a kitten package for a neuter/declaw, the employee said, “absolutely, it’s very reasonable and so much cheaper.”  The neuter/declaw is $180.
The employee said that they do declaws all the time and they “remove the nail.”  When asked if a declaw is ok for a cat and if the cat would be ok, the employee said “absolutely” and said that they see no problems in their declawed cats.

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Dr Pat Warpinski,- The Animal House, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
When a researcher called for the price of a spay/declaw the employee asked, “Would you want to get all four declawed?” A spay/ 4 paw declaw is $235 and the employee said that all their doctors do routine surgeries when the researcher asked which vet is the most skilled at the declaw.
Another employee was asked if they have kitten packages for a neuter/declaw and they said, “We do, do you want fronts or all four?” A neuter/4 paw declaw is $243. They said that they do declaws everyday and you can schedule an appointment with Dr Warpinski for the procedures.

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Dr Duffy Jones- Peach Tree Hill Vet, Atlanta, Georgia.
The employee said that they try not to do declaws, they don’t do them very often, and you have to meet with the doctor to discuss. They said, “it’s not what we like to do.”
Another employee said any of their vets, including Dr Jones, can do the declaw and you have to make an appointment to discuss it with a vet and get the costs. They don’t give out prices on the phone.

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Dr Christy Layton- Timberlane Pet Hospital and Resort, Plant City, Florida.
The employee said that they do declaws as a last resort and recommend scratching posts, Soft Paws, and other options. They said it’s like taking off the last digit.
Another employee was asked for the price of a neuter/declaw and said that they don’t advise a declaw and it’s best to use “something else” but then gave a price for a neuter/declaw as $424-$508. They said that you can book an appointment with Dr Layton to see if the cat is healthy enough for the procedure and talk about the declaw. They said that they provide special litter for the declawed cat’s toes.

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Dr Lisa Aumiller- House Paws Mobile Veterinary Service in New Jersey.
One employee said that they still have two doctors who will still do declaws but they had to check since they are trying to pass a law in New Jersey to ban it. They give advice on the other humane options like scratching posts, toys, etc.
Another employee said that Dr Aumiller will still do a declaw in “certain situations.”

Here’s a post on facebook that House Paws did about the NJ anti-declawing bill.


Here are the responses I received from the three veterinarians in the top ten finalists as to why they don’t declaw cats.

Dr Gary Richter.  Holistic Veterinary Care and Rehabilitation Center,  Oakland, CA.
He was the only top ten contestant that didn’t declaw cats.
“As a veterinarian and animal lover, I have always been in favor of leaving cat’s nails intact. When you consider the nature of an onchyectomy (digit amputation) and the documented long term effects it can have such as chronic pain and behavioral problems, there is no reason to perform this procedure. I have been in practice for 20 years and I have never had a client insist on declawing their cat after they understood what the procedure involves. Client education and alternative options such as regular nail trimmings, soft paws, etc. are the more effective and humane course to take when it comes to cats and their claws. Our job as veterinarians is to be advocates for our patients. Sometimes this means educating clients about what they are really asking for and show them a better way.” Dr Gary Richter. Holistic Veterinary Care and Rehabilitation Center, Oakland, Ca.  October 2018

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Dr Marcy Hammerle.  The Pet Doctor, O’Fallon, MO. 
Dr Hammerle stopped declawing right after the 2015 America’s Favorite Veterinarian Contest was cancelled and is now part of the PawProject.org team.
“I stopped declawing after the AFV contest. I listened to some of the people who reached out to me and took a hard look at all of the risks vs benefits of this procedure. I had never done many of these surgeries, always used good technique and appropriate pain medication, but there are complications even with the best techniques. I had never done any other cosmetic procedures and after researching decided that ethically I could not ever do another declaw.
I now work closely with rescue groups doing revisions on cats that have chronic pain due to declaw complications. This includes bone fragments and contracted tendons. It is so rewarding to help these cats have an improved quality of life. Some of them come into the shelter aggressive or inappropriately urinating due to the pain in their feet. After revision surgery they are able to find happy adoptive homes. I feel like I am really making a difference. ” Dr Marcy Hammerle, DVM. The Pet Doctor, O’Fallon, MO.  October 2018
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Dr Mitsie Vargas. Orchid Spring Animal Hospital, Winter Haven, FL. 
Dr Vargas topped declawing shortly after the 2015 America’s Favorite Veterinarian Contest was cancelled and is now part of the PawProject.org team.
“I stopped declawing after the AFV controversy because I was challenged to defend the reasons why I performed declaws. I grew up in Puerto Rico and have never heard of this procedure until Vet School. I declawed my first cat on the advice of my professor. I felt awful and swore I would not do it again. Sadly, once you declaw one cat adding another one to the household is hard, I ended declawing my next 2 cats ( I’ll always regret it). In my practice it was a service that was requested but never promoted , I tried to educate the owners, I learned to do it with laser and aggressive pain control to minimize my guilt. I used to do very little, 7 -8 a year, because we required a presurgical exam where we discussed options and complications. After the myths I believed in since Vet School were debunked by Dr Jennifer And the Paw Project, I decided to not just stop doing declaws but also to become part of the movement to end this cruel procedure. I’m proud to be a PawProject co-director in Florida and to have done several declaw repairs at discounted price. I firmly believe we as a nation can do better for our kitty population, we can ban declawing.”  Dr. Mitsie Vargas. Orchid Spring Animal Hospital, Winter Haven, FL. October 2018
 

Here’s how the other 10 finalists in the contest address declawing when my researchers called as a first time cat owner.

 

Dr Natalie Marks, Blum Animal Hospital, Chicago, IL. (AAHA and Fear Free Practice)

According to an employee, a few of the doctors at this hospital perform declaws including Dr Marks.

You need to have an exam with Dr Marks before she can do the declaw and neuter to see if the cat is healthy enough for the procedures. She uses a scalpel for the declaw. The researcher asked if Dr Marks is skilled at the declaw and the employee said yes, and said she has performed declaws many times. The employee said that they don’t do them regularly since they don’t have many clients that request a declaw. According to the employee, Dr Marks does the procedures on Mondays.

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Dr Page Wages, CareFirst Animal Hospital, Raleigh, NC

The employee said that they can do a declaw but just the front or just the back and they won’t do a 4 paw declaw. The employee looked up the price for the declaw and said a front declaw is $276 but then said that they must have stopped declawing “just the back” because there isn’t a price listed for it. Researcher asked if Dr Wages is skilled at the declaw and the employee said yes, that she would be the one that she recommends for it. She is one of their most skilled surgeons and she has done declaws in the past with no complications they said. The employee said that Dr Wages uses a scalpel and “cuts them off. ” They said the cat will be kept overnight, given pain meds, and will be healed in 10-14 days. You don’t need an exam and can drop off the cat the same day as the declaw and pick it up the next day.

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Dr LaShonn McNair, Links of Love veterinary Clinic, Miami, FL

Screenshot from Dr LaShonn’s website.

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Dr Dustin Brown, Meeker Animal Hospital, 343805 E HWY 62, Meeker, OK 74855

They do not perform declaws and say it causes problems for the cat later in life including arthritis. They said they don’t recommend declawing.

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Dr Monica Rudiger, Nine Lives Foundation, Redwood City, CA

They don’t declaw and speak out against it. The employee said that it is illegal, really painful, and it involves chopping off half of the toes. They said that as the cat gets older it causes pain and the cat won’t use the litter box. The employee mentioned many of the humane options to the researcher.

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Dr Kristen Cooke. Univ. of Florida Small Animal Hospital

Dr Cooke works in the Internal Medicine Dept. and that dept. doesn’t perform declaws.

The University of Florida Small Animal Hospital performs laser declaws. A neuter/declaw is $390-$490. The employee was asked why a laser is better for a declaw and she said because it heals better and is not as painful. They said that any of their soft tissue doctors are able to do declaws, they do them regularly, and your cat will “fully recover” in 10-14 days.

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Dr Emilio DeBess. He was listed as a vet at Milwaukie Animal Clinic in Oregon but he is now a State Public Health Veterinarian in Oregon according to an internet search.

An employee at Milwaukie Animal Clinic, Milwaukie, OR. where the AVMF listed he works, said that Dr DeBess is no longer working at this clinic.

The employee at Milwaukie Animal Clinic said that they declaw cats but don’t do them if the cat is over 6 months old because the bone has developed more and it’s a more difficult healing for the cat.

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Dr Raeyna Longtin, True Companions VetVan, Cottage Grove, MN

This vet practice doesn’t do any surgeries according to this facebook post about the contest.

(It wasn’t an “organized campaign of cyber attacks.”  It was an organized campaign for people to vote for the only vet in the top ten finalists who didn’t declaw cats.

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Dr Chad Harris, Austin Animal Hospital, Austin, TX

They employee said that they don’t do declaws. They said, “a number of years ago people used to have their cats declawed but veterinary medicine has moved towards not having cats declawed.” They said that it’s painful and they aren’t really removing the claws, and that declawing has to do with part of their actual toes like the digits and bones.

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Dr Jerry Klein, Chicago Veterinary ER and Specialty, Chicago, IL

He’s now the Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club according to an internet search.


The AVMF winners for the 2013 and 2014 America’s Favorite Veterinarian contest were as follows.

2013 Winner

Dr. Carlos Campos, who owns and practices at San Francis Veterinary Hospital in Spring Hill, Fla.  The employee said that a neuter/declaw is $496 and they prefer to do the neuter and the declaw at the same time. They said they use a laser to declaw and it’s better because it “heals quicker and doesn’t leave anything behind.” They said that Dr Campos does them regularly and your cat will be healed in two weeks.

They also have a video from the cutting edge laser company on their website when you click on this Declaw Laser Surgery link. WARNING- This video is graphic and shows the vet in it, Dr Sue Sculley burning off the cat’s toe bones. At the 1.45 min mark Dr Sculley calls the deep digital flexor tendon, “my little smile.”   Here’s the link to this laser declawing video that is on Dr Carlos Campos’ website. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtIsetdVirw

Here’s the link to this “Declaw laser surgery” on Dr Campos’ website. http://www.sanfrancisvet.com/common-services.pml

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2014 Winner

Dr Tim Hunt of Bayshore Veterinary Hospital in Marquette, MI.

The employee said that they only do the front declaws. Dr Hunt doesn’t usually do them. Dr Tracy Nyberg does them regularly and a declaw is $180.  The declaw involves taking off the cat’s first knuckle they said.

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In 2015 the AVMA had this advertisement for one of the courses at their Boston Convention. How to learn how to profit from burning the toe bones and claws off cats.

****Remember to take the high road and be nice.  When you are threatening or mean it hurts the cause, it’s wrong, and they often blame your mean words on me. Thank you, City the Kitty