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Paws Need Claws

By Carol Whaley, Director of Humane Programming

Tuesday, Sept. 28 was a big day in Pittsburgh as the City Council unanimously voted to ban the surgery used to declaw cats for non-therapeutic reasons. Two days later, Mayor William Peduto’s office signed the City of Pittsburgh’s ordinance, crafted in a partnership between Animal Friends’ Humane Legislation Committee members and Councilman Bobby Wilson’s office.

This legislation makes Pittsburgh City Council the commonwealth’s first government to enact such a measure. The City of Pittsburgh joins other major U.S. cities, including Austin, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Culver City, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, St. Louis, West Hollywood and New York state in enacting the ban.

Declawing is much more than removing a cat’s nails. The procedure involves the amputation of all or part of the last bone in cats’ toes to entirely remove the claws to inhibit natural scratching behavior. The surgery is inhumane, unnecessary and cruel. Behavioral problems frequently result from declawing, including biting and litter box aversion due to pain and ongoing physical trauma from the procedure. Declawed cats with behavioral problems often end up surrendered to local animal shelters, contributing to an already overwhelmed shelter system. Alternatives to declawing include applying nail caps to cats’ nails, regularly trimming nails and providing cats with ample appropriate scratching surfaces.

For decades, Animal Friends has been a leader in advocating against declawing. Through our behavior and adoption counseling, nail trim services, sales of scratching posts and sharing educational resources about this surgery, we have tirelessly worked with owners to keep claws on paws where they belong.

With the passage of the Pittsburgh declaw ban, we are in a strong position to pass similar ordinances in nearby municipalities, perhaps even Allegheny County. Pennsylvania State Representative Liz Hanbidge also introduced House Bill 1624, banning non-therapeutic declawing at the state level. We are proud to live in a city that continues to champion humane legislature to make our community a safer and more compassionate place for all of our animal friends. Thank you to everyone who stepped up to support this prohibition by speaking out for the cats in our community.

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