An animal welfare advisory board to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is recommending the city ban the veterinary practice of de-clawing cats, except in cases of medical necessity.

The San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare voted 5-1 Thursday in support of a ban, arguing the practice is cruel and often done simply for cosmetic purposes or to prevent pets from clawing furniture, Commission Chair Sally Stephens said.
Stephens said the procedure involves amputating the last bone in a cat’s paw and, though doctors use anesthetic, some cats can suffer long-term pain and behavioral changes, such as refusing to use a litter box.

“So basically it’s kind of barbaric,” Stephens said.

A proposed ordinance in San Francisco would be modeled on a ban already in effect in West Hollywood, the first city in the country to ban de-clawing. The practice has also been banned in several European countries.

According to Stephens, the ban would exclude cases where de-clawing was necessary for the health of the cat, such as with serious infections or tumors.

“De-clawing is no less cruel because it is labeled a common veterinary procedure,” veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Conrad of the Paw Project, who spoke at Thursday’s hearing, said in a statement today.

“In fact, it is more cruel because veterinarians, of all people, should know better,” Conrad said.

Stephens said a representative of California Veterinary Medical Association, which unsuccessfully sued to overturn the West Hollywood ban, also spoke at the hearing, but against the proposed ban.

The CVMA representative argued such a decision should be left to the veterinarian and the cat owner, rather than imposed by the city, according to Stephens.

Stephens said she hoped the Board of Supervisors would vote to ban the practice by the end of the year.

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