The Paw Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing and repairing the damage done by declawing cats both large and small, was in Denver last week to promote The Paw Project movie, an hour-long documentary.
The film chronicles the journey of Paw Project founder Dr. Jennifer Conrad, "Veterinarian to the Real Stars of Hollywood:" the animals. She worked with wild and exotic animals around the world. But after seeing the devastatingly painful effects of declawing in tigers, lions, and mountain lions, Conrad decided to try to surgically repair the paws of the crippled big cats. While successful, the surgery is time-consuming and expensive--and there were thousands of cats that needed it. So in addition to founding her non-profit to handle donations for paw-repair surgeries, Conrad led a successful effort to get the US Department of Agriculture to amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit declawing of exotic carnivores (including cats, wolves, and bears) by institutions covered by the Act, such as zoos and circuses.
Conrad also realized that, because anatomy, gait, and weight-bearing are identical in big cats and domestic pet cats, our smaller feline friends must also be suffering the same crippling effects of declawing. Because she knew that most veterinarians who perform declaw surgery did not fully educate cat guardians about the surgery and its possible complications, she decided to try to get the procedure legally banned.
West Hollywood, CA, took up the challenge, and in 2003 passed a city ordinance banning declawing within its city limits. The law affected only three veterinary clinics, but received big attention from the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). When the ban passed, CVMA promptly challenged it in court. While CVMA won the first round, West Hollywood won on appeal, and the California Supreme Court allowed the appellate ruling to stand.
However, CVMA had another trick up its sleeve, lobbying the state legislature to effectively enact a “ban on bans” so that other communities couldn’t follow in West Hollywood’s footsteps. But the new law—while passed in mid-2009—didn’t take effect until January 1, 2010. Conrad and her team took advantage of the unexpected window of opportunity to get similar declawing bans passed in seven other cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Burbank, and Culver City. When each city council was presented with the clear facts about declawing, it was obvious to them that the procedure was unnecessary and cruel. The movie follows the Paw Project team as they rack up one success after another.
Now Conrad has set her sights on the great and humane state of Colorado. With Denver veterinarian Dr. Aubrey Lavizzo at the helm of Paw Project Colorado, the team plans to get a statewide declawing ban passed here. Lavizzo, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association’s 2011 Veterinarian of the Year, was recently featured on 9News and in Westword explaining what declawing is and why it should be banned.
For more information, or if you’d like to sponsor a screening of The Paw Project movie for your group, please visit The Paw Project. If you're interested in helping Paw Project Colorado protect cats from the cruelty of declawing, you can join the Paw Project Colorado Meetup.