Denver set to debate banning declawing cats

DENVER --- Denver could join Los Angeles as the next major American city to ban the medical procedure to declaw cats.

That is a real possibility as a bill by councilwoman Kendra Black has been proposed. It will have its first committee hearing on Wednesday.

"It's a cruel procedure," Black said. "A cat declawing actually severs the tips of the toes of cats and they use a piece of equipment similar to a cigar cutter."

The idea to ban declawing is not new. Proposals have been in front of legislatures in New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Rhode Island for years.

Traditionally, however, efforts have been blocked by veterinarian trade groups.

While the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association has not responded for comment, Black said it opposes it.

For veterinarians such as Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, this issue is complicated.

"It's a line of last resort. Most vets don't want to do it," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald, who has practiced for more than 30 years, said declawing used to be a common procedure, but recent awareness regarding the harm it causes cats has made it more rare.

Fitzgerald said oftentimes owners want to protect their furniture from scratches.

"Most want to declaw because of the cats destructive behavior," Fitzgerald said.

While Fitzgerald counsels patients against declawing, he is not fully on board with a ban, fearing restrictions might hurt vets.

"It's not always the best thing to be told what to do," Fitzgerald said. "If the person -- the human owner -- is really sick and has an autoimmune disease that a cat scratch may endanger their health, that's a different story."

Black said she is open to medical exemptions and said Denver Animal Control would be responsible for any enforcement.