Story published in July 2022.
Five Delaware veterinarians killed the 2022 Delaware anti-cruelty bill, which was written to protect cats by ending declawing, an inhumane and unnecessary amputation of cats’ toe bones.
The bill, HB 333, had an auspicious start as it handily passed the Delaware State Assembly 25-14. As it traveled through the legislation process, its next step was to be reviewed in the Senate Health & Social Services Committee before it was released to the Senate floor for a vote. Here’s the link to the bill. https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?LegislationId=79203
The committee’s six members, Senator Chair Sarah McBride, Vice-Chair Senator Nicole Poore, Senator Stephanie L. Hansen, Senator Marie Pinkney, Senator Brian Pettyjohn, and Senator David L. Wilson, listened to testimony, including all the evidence that declawing is an inappropriate surgery to treat a normal feline behavior, that there are many humane alternatives, and that veterinarians can still make money by doing the right thing. But according to Senator John Walsh, one of the sponsors of this bill, the majority of members of that committee sided with the five pro-declaw vets and their unfounded excuses for declawing. The committee thus chose to not to vote the bill out of committee.
Why were these five pro-declawing vets so invested in making sure Delaware did not become the third state in the union to ban declawing?
Could it be that these vets make money from declawing? Their impetus to declaw and protect the right to declaw, however, is in direct conflict to their Fear Free status and the AAHA accreditation.
(Fear Free is completely against declawing and does not allow their Fear Free Certified Practices or their Fear Free Certified Veterinarians to declaw cats. AAHA.org says that they strongly oppose declawing and that vets should tell their clients that declawing is no longer a reasonable or supported procedure. But then AAHA says if veterinarians are going to declaw, they should use pain meds before, during, and after.)
The only organizations that opposed this bill were the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association (DVMA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the Board of Veterinary Medicine for Professional Regulation. Apparently, these organizations protect veterinarians regardless of the cruelty they inflict on animals.
The bill’s supporters were all anti-cruelty organizations, including the Paw Project, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society, Delaware SPCA/Humane Association, and Faithful Friends Animal Society.
Another declawing bill that was introduced and followed the same timeline as this anti-declawing bill was HB 386, which prohibits a landlord from requiring a tenant declaw a cat as a condition for entering into or renewing a rental agreement.
This bill moved out of the Senate Housing committee on June 29th, the same day the anti-declawing bill had its hearing in the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. On June 30th, the Senate passed HB 386 with a 15 to 5 vote. According to one of the sponsors of the bill, there was no opposition to this bill.
Here it is. https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail/109364
We also asked Sen. Sarah McBride who is the chair of this committee, why the bill didn’t move out of her committee.
She wrote us back on Aug. 1, 2022 and said, “The bill came to us exceptionally late in session and many colleagues, myself included, felt that we needed more time to evaluate the legislation, something that was simply not possible in the final few days of the legislative session. Typically, a committee hearing wouldn’t even have been held on a bill that came to us so late, but, in a desire to at least begin a conversation on the legislation among senators, I decided to hold one.
Here are the 5 Delaware veterinarians who testified against this bill in the Senate Committee hearing. Here is the link to this Senate hearing. Anti-declawing bill Senate hearing. (Click on “Recordings” then click on the June 29th Senate Health and Social Services Committee meeting link. The Anti-declawing bill hearing starts at 1.10pm in the video.)
1) Dr Michelle Crosier, owner of Companion Animal Veterinary Associates in Middletown, Delaware, is a Fear Free Certified Veterinarian and the President of the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association (DVMA).
2) Dr Erin Giebel Whaley, co-owner of AAHA Accredited Animal Hospital, Savannah Animal Hospital in Lewes, DE and President of the Board of Veterinary Medicine for Professional Regulation.
When you do a google search for “declawing Delaware,” Savanna Animal Hospital comes up on the 2nd page.
When you search “neutering Delaware” or “spaying Delaware,” Savannah Animal Hospital does not come up on those pages.
3) Dr Andrea Richter, retired veterinarian from AAHA Accredited Animal Hospital, Savannah Animal Hospital. (Retired in Nov. 2021.)
4) Dr Robert Pedigo, retired veterinarian from AAHA Accredited Animal Hospital, Savannah Animal Hospital. (Retired in Nov. 2021.)
5) Dr Janice Sosnowski, owner of this National Veterinary Associates (NVA) practice, Governor’s Avenue Animal Hospital, Dover, DE and a Fear Free Certified veterinarian. According to 2 employees at this practice, Dr Sosnowski is one of their veterinarians who declaws cats.
(Note: Fear Free does not allow their veterinarians to declaw cats. In April of 2022, NVA told us that they will be ending elective declawing in their practices in 3-5 months.)
As investigative reporters, we wanted to look into how the practices associated with these veterinarians address declawing.
Our researchers made a short phone call asking for the cost of a spay/neuter and declaw, what veterinarians performed the declaws, how they perform them, how often they perform declaws, and if declawing is ok for a cat and their long-term health and well-being.
(We have withheld the names of employees for fear that they might suffer a backlash for their honest answers.)
Here’s what we found.
We reached out to Dr Crosier, Dr Whaley, and Dr Sosnowski with some questions for this story but haven’t heard back from them yet.
We also reached out to Savannah Animal Hospital to try to get the emails for Dr Robert Pedigo and Dr Andrea Richter since they used to be the owners of this hospital and recently retired, but Savannah AH would not provide us with them.
Dr Michelle Crosier- Companion Animal Veterinary Associates, Middletown, DE. Fear Free Veterinarian and Fear Free Certified practice. Companion Animal Veterinary Associates facebook page
Researcher asked for the cost of a declaw and the employee said that they are a Fear Free Practice and they do not declaw cats. The researcher asked if the declaw causes fear and the employee said that the “cats need their claws so they don’t remove them.”
Researcher asked if a declaw is bad for a cat and the employee said yes.
Clearly, Dr Crosier doesn’t follow her own hospital’s advice. She said this in her testimony:
“Agreed, declawing is definitely becoming less and less common, not something that is done automatically like it was 15 or 20 years ago but there are still situations where that procedure may be in the best interests for that pet owner or that family in keeping that cat in its current home.”
She also said she isn’t aware of any studies that link house soiling in cats to declawing. (She apparently hasn’t bothered to look because there are many studies linking house soiling to cats.)
Here’s the link to the YouTube video of Dr Michelle Crosier’s testimony. Dr Michelle Crosier’s 2 minute testimony against the Delaware anti-declawing bill
Dr Erin Giebel Whaley, Dr Andrea Richter, and Dr Robert Pedigo are all associated with Savannah Animal Hospital. Lewes, DE. AAHA. The 2 minute videos of their testimony to the Senate Committee.
Dr Erin Giebel Whaley is a co-owner of this Savannah Animal Hospital. Savannah Animal Hospital’s facebook page
The employee said a neuter is from around $500-$600 and a declaw is an additional $200-$300. They use a laser and they say that it is better because it cauterizes, minimizes blood loss and swelling.
The employee said that Dr Clifford Howard, Dr Christine Clark, and Dr Melissa Schwarmann perform their declaws.
The researcher asked if the cats are ok after a declaw. The employee said, “Yes, it’s going to take some recovery and it’s definitely a recovery process.” They said, “The cats usually do pretty well as long as you restrict their activity and give them time to rest their paws.”
The researcher asked if the cats are ok long term after a declaw. Employee said yes.
The researcher asked if they do declaws regularly. Employee said yes.
These are some of the things Dr Erin Giebel Whaley said to the Senators in her testimony.
She feels this procedure should still be allowed to be performed with a discussion with their veterinarian on different options and the “side effects” and “long term things.”
She said, “For some pet owners we know that this this is the option that is best for their individual situation.”
She said the declawing procedure has been improved over the years.
She said that they use a lot more both pre-op and post op pain management.
She said, “These animals come out usually feeling fairly good after the procedure and the days following.”
She said, “Definitely it is down in how frequently we’re doing it. I think in our practice we did one all month. So not very frequent as far as that goes.”
She said, “Everybody is saying trim the cat’s nails or apply the Soft Paws. That’s not always the easiest thing for all these cats. Not all cats allow an owner to do it. So it’s catching a cat, taking it to the hospital, and having to have two or three technicians to hold it to do a nail trim. And applying the Soft Paws does take flexibility to apply that as well.”
We guess she prefers to cut the toe bones off instead of trimming the nails.
She said, “As far as this being a cruelty thing and our investigators having to go investigate and the board hear all the claims, there are more important things, I think that our board needs to be focusing on for our patients and the Delaware community.”
She said, “So it is our hope that you will not vote in favor of this bill and allow us to continue to allow the veterinarians and their clients to make their decisions for their individual pets.”
Dr Jan Sosnowski- owner of this NVA practice. Governor’s Avenue Animal Hospital, Dover, DE. Governor’s Ave. Animal Hospital’s Facebook page
She is a Fear Free Certified veterinarian. According to two employees at this animal hospital, Dr Jan Sosnowski declaws cats.
(Note: Fear Free does not allow their Fear Free Certified Veterinarians to declaw cats.)
She is also a Past President of the DVMA.
Here’s Dr Jan Sosnowski’s July 2022 written letter of opposition to the 2022 Delaware anti-declawing bill.
(If the bill would have passed, it would have been easy to decide if a declaw was “medically necessary” for the cat since it would be in cases where a cat had a tumor on its paw or an injury to its toes.
Here’s what we found about Dr Jan Sosnowski’s practice in regards to declawing.
Researcher asked for the cost of a neuter/declaw. Employee said a neuter/declaw is $600-$900 depending on the cat’s weight.
Researcher asked what surgeon they recommend for declaws. Employee said, “We would definitely get you scheduled for that, Dr Jan (Sosnowski) is normally the one that does them the most.”
Researcher asked if she does declaws regularly and the employee said yes.
Researcher asked if she does around one declaw a month or one a week. Employee said they don’t know but said, “She just did one today.”
Asked if the cats are ok long term. Employee said yes and said, “We don’t have any complications or any that come back.”
Employee said that you need to make an appointment and discuss any concerns and if the cat is healthy enough then the procedures will be scheduled.
Another employee was asked for the cost of a spay/declaw and about a veterinarian for the declaw. They said all 5 of their doctors do declaws.
There are two more Fear Free Certified veterinarians at this animal hospital according to FearFreePets website, so if this employee is correct, then these two vets, Dr Jessica Street and Dr Erika Gennusa. , are also breaking Fear Free’s no-declaw rule.
The employee said the cost for the spay/declaw would be around $450-$800 but you need to get an exam blood work and an EKG first and vaccines.
Researcher asked if the cats ok after a declaw and the employee said that it’s an amputation and something you have to decide if you want to do. They said sometimes they are sore for a while afterwards and sometimes they have some long-term issues, but for the most part they are fine.
The employee said that many people are choosing to not to declaw anymore so they don’t do a lot of them.
(What is a lot of declaws? Were they doing 10 a week and now they only perform 2 a week?)
The Board of Veterinary Medicine, Division of Professional Regulation was also against this bill. https://dpr.delaware.gov/boards/veterinarymedicine/members/
The President of this Board, Dr Erin Giebel Whaley was one of the veterinarians who testified against this bill.
The Vice President of this Board, Dr Danielle Downs, did not testify in the Senate committee hearing. Dr Downs is a Fear Free Certified veterinarian.
Dr Danielle Downs works at Lums Pond Animal Hospital in Bear, DE and this practice declaws cats according to an employee. This is an AAHA Accredited Animal Hospital.
They have the Fear Free and AAHA logo on the top of their website’s homepage.
How can Fear Free and declawing co-exist? Lums Pond Animal Hospital’s website
According to information on FearFreepets.com they have 12 employees including another veterinarian, Dr Sharky who are Fear Free certified.
Researcher asked for the cost of a neuter and declaw.
Employee said you would need a pre-surgical exam to see if the cat is healthy enough for the procedures which is $63.
Employee said that a neuter is $200-$450 and a declaw is $495 although the cost varies due to age and weight.
Employee said a lot of the hospitals in the area aren’t doing declaws anymore and that they are going to outlaw declaws.
Employee said that Dr Robert Thompson and Dr Jenni Smagala perform their declaws.
Dr Jenni Smagala is the Sec./Treasurer of the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association (DVMA), she is also Fear Free certified. (Fear Free does not allow their vets to declaw cats.)
Researcher asked if the cats are ok long term. Employee said, “It depends” and said you can never put them outside because they have no defense.
Researcher asked if they do declaws regularly and the employee said the vet has been there for 30 years and has done a lot of declaws. Researcher asked if he does them regularly and the employee said yes.
The employee said you can call around and price shop but to just make sure they do the declaws and they do the pre-anesthetic blood work to make sure the animal is healthy enough for anesthesia.
Researcher asked why many practices don’t do declaws and the employee said, “Because it is considered cruel.”
They said that’s the reason why a lot of hospitals are stopping it and also that animal advocates are protesting it.
Employee said that a lot of people think they just take the claw off but they are taking off bones, the first digit.
Researcher asked if their doctors don’t think it’s cruel and the employee said that it’s an ethical thing and that they feel they shouldn’t get into but then went on to say. “Because it’s just as cruel for an animal not get a home because the owners don’t want them to claw up their furniture and then he’s homeless. It’s a toss a coin kind of thing.”
Declawing and the practices associated with the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association’s leadership.
Immediate Past President. Dr April Reid, Peninsula Veterinary Services, Milsboro, DE. This is an AAHA, Cat Friendly, and Fear Free practice.
Employee said that they do not declaw cats. They said that Dr Reid doesn’t believe in declawing cats. When asked if it’s bad for a cat, the employee said yes and that it’s not just removing a nail, it’s removes part of a toe. They said that over time the cat is prone to arthritis as they get older.
Secretary/Treasurer, Dr Jenni Smagala, a Fear Free certified veterinarian at Lums Pond Animal Hospital in Bear, DE. This is an AAHA hospital.
Employee said that Dr Robert Thompson and Dr Jenni Smagala perform their declaws. (Fear Free does not allow their vets to declaw cats.)
Sussex County Representative Dr Jennifer Fabryka. Savannah Animal Hospital and is also listed as a vet who works at Seaford Animal Hospital which is an AAHA hospital that declaws cats .
(Savannah Animal hospital also declaws cats. Dr Erin Giebel Whaley is the co-owner of this AAHA Accredited Animal Hospital, Savannah Animal Hospital and she testified to Senators in opposition to the anti-declawing bill.)
Kent County Representative Dr James Foor, with Governor’s Animal Hospital. (This hospital declaws cats and their owner vet, Dr Jan Sosnowski testified to Senators in opposition to the anti-declawing bill.)
Sussex County Representative Dr Mallory Alexander, owner of Avenue Veterinary Clinic in Milford.
The employee said that Dr Alexander doesn’t approve of declawing and taking the claws off a cat. When asked if it is bad for a cat, the employee said yes.
AVMA delegates for the DVMA, Dr Erin Altares and Dr Emily Bielecki. Coastal Veterinary in Selbyville.
The employee said that the declaws are performed on an individual basis and there’s an assessment that has to be done as to the need. They said that they only have one veterinarian who does the declaws, the owner, Dr. MaryHelen Staruch and she isn’t taking any new clients.
Random declawing survey of 22 veterinary practices in Delaware.
Our researchers made a short phone call asking for the cost of a spay/neuter and declaw, what veterinarians performed the declaws, and if declawing is ok for a cat long-term, and if they do them regularly.
(We have withheld the names of employees for fear that they might suffer a backlash for their honest answers.)
Here’s what we found.
Practices that declaw cats.
Pet Medical Center, Delmar, DE.
The employee said that a neuter is $175 and a declaw is $400 but that doesn’t include the medications they go home with.
Employee said Dr Joanna Pappas does their declaws. Researcher asked if she does them regularly and the employee said, “Oh yea.”
Researcher asked if the cats are ok long term from a declaw and the employee said yes and that the cats usually spend the night after the procedure so they can keep an eye on them.
The employee said they recently had one of their hospital cats declawed due to some aggression issues they have healed very nicely and are able to enjoy spending time with people again. They said the cat was feral and is an adult cat, probably between 5-10 years old.
Georgetown Animal Hospital, Georgetown, DE.
Employee asked, “Were you hoping to get all four claws removed or just the front?”
A neuter/2 paw declaw is around $400 and a neuter/4 paw declaw is around $500 or more.
They said that they only have two doctors and they both do the declaws.
Researcher asked if they do them regularly and the employee said yes.
When asked if a declaw is ok for a cat long term the employee said yes.
They said that they use a laser for post op care after the declaw for healing.
Brenford Animal Hospital, Dover, DE.
Researcher asked for the cost of a declaw and the employee said that a two paw declaw is $305.50 and a four paw declaw is $479.
Employee said that Dr Hammer, Dr Campanicki, and Dr McCall perform their declaws. Researcher asked if they do them regularly and employee said yes, at least one a month. When asked if a declaw is ok for a cat long term, the employee said, “I suppose. We haven’t had any issues.”
Haven Lake Animal Hospital, Milford, DE.
A neuter/ declaw is $850.
Employee said that all their doctors do the declaws. Researcher asked if they do them regularly and the employee said, “Yes, sometimes they do.”
Researcher asked if the cats are ok long term from the declaw and the employee said, “We haven’t had any issues.”
Seaford Animal Hospital, Seaford, DE. AAHA Accredited Animal Hospital.
The employee said that a declaw/neuter is from $750- $800. They said that Dr William Wade, the owner, does their declaws.
Researcher asked if he does them regularly and employee said they don’t do them often. Researcher asked if a declaw is ok for a cat long term and the employee said yes.
Precious Paws Animal Hospital, Ocean View, DE
The employee said that a neuter is probably around $400. They said they don’t do declaws that often and only have one doctor who does them, Dr. John Maniatty. They said the cost of a declaw varies from around possibly $600 depending on if they are going to do a declaw for 2 feet or 4 feet, if the cat is over 1 year old they have to stay 2 nights and younger than one year old they just stays one night so you would need an exam for an exact cost.
They said that Dr. John Maniatty does their declaws and their other doctors won’t do it because it is kind of frowned upon in this day and age. Researcher asked if a declaw is bad for a cat. They said that New York has made it illegal. They said they have to cut up to the first knuckle and some people say it can make your cat more aggressive because they don’t have their defense mechanism.
Western Sussex Animal Hospital, Bridgeville, DE.
A neuter/declaw is from $380-400. The employee said they have one doctor who does the declaws.
Researcher asked if a declaw is ok long term for a cat. Employee said that it is taking off the first digit but that they heal up well without issues if they are younger cats. They said that the older the cat is, a lot of issues can arise from a declaw. The employee wasn’t sure if they have an age limit for a declaw.
They said that they aren’t taking in new clients until they find another doctor and to try the SPCA or Four Paws Animal Hospital.
Four Paws Animal Hospital, Seaford, DE.
A declaw is $450. A neuter/declaw is $750.
They said that Dr Mike Metzler does the declaws. Researcher asked if he does them regularly and employee said, “That is correct.”
Researcher asked if a cat’s ok long term after a declaw. Employee said, yes, it usually takes about two weeks to get over the pain in their feet but after that they are usually fine.
Haven Lake Animal Hospital, Milford, DE.
A neuter/declaw is $530- $650.
The employee said all five of their vets do the declaws. Researcher asked if they do them regularly and employee said yes.
When asked if a declaw is ok for a cat long term, the employee said yes, “we haven’t had any issues.”
Eastern Shore Veterinary Hospital, Laurel, DE.
The employee said they declaw cats but they aren’t taking any new clients.
Millsboro Animal Hospital, Millsboro, DE.
The employee said they declaw cats but they aren’t taking any new clients until January. A neuter/declaw is $550.
Circle Veterinary Clinic, Wilmington, DE.
The employee said they can perform the neuter/declaw but you need an appointment first to see if the cats healthy and to get a cost for the procedures.
Kentmere Veterinary Hospital, Wilmington, DE.
The employee said that Dr Kevin Coogan did the declaws but now he is only doing them for his well established clients so it’s very “one and far and few in between.” They said since Dr Coogan is not taking new clients and their other two vets won’t perform declaws, technically they don’t declaw at their practice anymore for new clients. They said that they don’t know of any other clinics that declaw because they aren’t doing them for the same reasons they are not.
Practices that do not declaw cats.
Duck Creek Animal hospital, Smyrna, DE.
Employee said that they don’t do declaws and that it’s an amputation of the first knuckle that can cause issues like arthritis, pain for the rest of their lives, and behavioral issues.
Wilmington Animal Hospital, Wilmington, DE.
They said they do not declaw cats because it is not really humane.
Talleyville and Graylyn Crest are part of a veterinary group of 5 veterinary practices in Delaware.
The employee said that all 5 of their clinics stopped declawing around 3 or 4 years ago.
Talleyville Veterinary Hospital, Wilmington, DE.
The employee said they don’t declaw cats because it’s extremely painful and very invasive, it takes them a long time to recover, and it inhibits them from defending themselves.
Graylyn Crest Animal hospital in Wilmington, DE.
Employee said that they do not declaw cats and their doctors don’t feel it’s necessary, it’s painful and stressful for a cat.
Main Street Veterinary Clinic, Middletown, DE.
Employee said that they don’t declaw cats because it’s against their doctor’s policy.
Crossroads Veterinary Clinic, Selbyville, DE.
They said that they don’t do declaws anymore.
Atlantic Veterinary Center, Middletown, DE.
The employee said they don’t do declaws and that it is against the law. When asked if it’s bad for a cat they said yes, it’s very painful.
Rehoboth Beach Animal Hospital, Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Their doctors don’t declaw cats. Researcher asked if it’s bad for a cat and the employee said yes.
Red Lion Veterinary Hospital, New Castle, DE.
They do not declaw cats. The employee said it’s becoming illegal in DE and it’s not good for cats to be declawed.
Please sign our petitions to AAHA.org and NVA.com
Please respectfully reach out to AAHA and NVA and ask them why they allow declawing in their animal hospitals.
AAHA’s emails are – AAHA@AAHA.org and their CEO Garth.Jordan@aaha.org
NVA’s emails are – firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Donate to the Delaware SPCA since they testified in support of this bill. Delaware SPCA
Take your pets to no-declaw practices and practices that don’t have veterinarians who fight to keep this animal cruelty legal.
Always take the high road, be polite, and educate!