Beverly Hills Votes to Defend Cats' Right to Swipe

Pro-choice pet owners say decision is private

By Olsen Ebright
|  Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 2:54 PM PDT
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The fur is flying in a sharply contested debate as Beverly Hills takes a major step toward banning the declawing of cats.

The City Council voted 5-0 on Thursday night to ban what Councilman John Mirisch called "a cruel and unnecessary procedure."

But pro-choice advocates, such as California Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Mark Nunez, say the decision is none of the government's business.

"The decision to declaw a cat should remain between the owner in consultation with his, or her, veterinarian on a case-by-case basis," Nunez said in an Oct. 13 letter to the mayor.

Nunez added that declawing "is not cruel or inhumane," and the procedure is primarily used as a last resort.

"It is something that is done not for medical reasons, but for the convenience of the pet guardian," Mirisch argued.

The proposal would allow exceptions if a cat's life were in danger.

Even so, Nunez argues that if pet owners can't get the claws taken care of in Beverly Hills, they will just go elsewhere.

Mirisch acknowledged that could happen, but "we have to do what we feel is right for us."

Passage of the proposed ordinance "wouldn't change much," because "I don't think there really any vets in Beverly Hills who do a lot of declawing," but "would send an important signal that this is not OK," Mirisch said.

A second vote is needed to send the proposed ordinance to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for his signature.

Various city councils around the state are considering proposals to ban declawing because of a state law banning cities and counties from regulating the practice of veterinary medicine goes into effect Jan. 1.

The Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday directed the City Attorney's Office to draft an ordinance banning declawing for the full City Council to consider before the end of the year.

Santa Monica's City Council gave initial approval to banning declawing Oct. 27 as did the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

West Hollywood is the state's only city to restrict cat declawing by local ordinance, according to Susan Healy Keene, Beverly Hills' director of community development.

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