November 15, 2017 03:50 PM

It’s one small paw-step for cats, and a giant leap for felines in Denver, Colorado.

The Denver Post reports that a bill proposing to ban the declawing of cats was passed unanimously by the Denver City Council on Monday.

Declawing, known as “onychectomy” to veterinarians, is a surgical procedure that removes a cat’s claws. The surgery consists of removing all or the majority of the last bone of each of the ten toes in a cat’s front paws. The tendons, nerves and ligaments which provide normal functioning for a cat’s paw are often completely severed. Once a more common veterinary procedure recommended to indoor cat owners, declawing is now frequently compared to cutting off the tip of a human finger down to the last knuckle.

Vet technician and part-owner of Northfield Veterinary Hospital Jen Weston tells Colorado’s 9 News that she was an advocate for Denver’s ban.

“When you declaw a cat, they’re more prone to have some of those behaviors like urinating inappropriately, biting things that will lead people to relinquish them into the shelters,” said Weston. “To a certain extent, scratching is an appropriate behavior for cats and when you take that behavior away, you’re more apt to see more behavioral issues start to come out.”

Aside from behavioral problems, which can also impact animal shelter populations, many vets say the procedure is downright painful.

Still, many cat owners continue to favor it, and not all vets are opposed. Veterinarian Casara Andre argued against removing the option to declaw. She told the council that although she is opposed to declawing cats as a routine procedure, it can be done in a pain-free way and even improve the human-animal bond.

“A decision to declaw a cat is affected by many human and animal factors,” Andre tells the Denver Post. “The well-being of the animal and their human family is best defended by providing owners with education about alternatives to declawing, appropriate training for family cats, and well-informed discussions between that pet owner and their veterinary medicine provider.”

Representatives from the Paw Project, an animal welfare and anti-declawing non-profit organization, have argued passionately otherwise. Veterinarian Aubrey Lavizzo, the Paw Project’s local leader, was the driving force behind the ban and convinced Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black to spearhead it. Meanwhile, Jennifer Conrad, who founded the Paw Project and led the anti-declawing mission in California, also testified before the city council, claiming that removing a cat’s claws hurts their ability to naturally defend themselves and causes “a lifetime of pain.”

“Our experience in California was very interesting,” said Conrad. “We found that if we looked at the numbers of cats who were relinquished five years before — versus five years after — the ban went into existence, we found there was a decrease in the number of cats relinquished” (allegedly by 43 percent in Los Angeles).

Declawing is prohibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Culver City, West Hollywood and Burbank within the United States. New Jersey recently considered making the procedure illegal, and restrictions related to the practice have passed in cities within Rhode Island and Virginia. Numerous countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, Brazil, Israel and Australia (among others), have either banned the practice or consider it extremely inhumane and only advisable to perform in extreme cases.

According to the Denver Post, Councilman Jolon Clark held his family cat on his lap throughout the hearing.

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