Jan 272003
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

For pet owners, it’s about individual rights

If you own a cat, and this cat is declawed, you may be interested to learn that you are a detestable person.

First of all, you don’t own Fluffy. You are Fluffy’s guardian. Oh. And you’re also not allowed to get Fluffy declawed. These are both true if you live in West Hollywood, California.

If you’re a cat owner -I mean guardian – in that town on the West Coast, protecting your furniture and skin from feline talons is no longer your choice. The city council of West Hollywood voted unanimously to ban the surgical practice, swayed by testimony from those who called it “needless, painful mutilation.”

West Hollywood is the first place in the United States to take legal measures against this practice, but it is not the first in the world. Thirteen European nations have also banned declawing.

In Greece, the stigma goes much further. I was in Crete in 2001, and noticed the overabundance of cats that wandered and roamed the streets and alleys freely. I had made friends with a resident and asked him about it.

According to my Greek acquaintance, not only is declawing unacceptable, but the idea of spaying or neutering a dog or cat is also atrocious. They should be allowed to wander free, sowing their seeds as nature intended.

Their culture looks in horror at the United States, which not only allows spaying and neutering, but encourages it. Fixing your pet is promoted as a noble and humanitarian practice here in the States. Indeed, there is even an opportunity for me to donate to the Pet Overpopulation Fund when I file my state taxes this year.

Obviously, what is cruel and what is acceptable is a matter of perspective. But then where do you draw the line? Don’t we look a little hypocritical when we denounce one operation on our pets and encourage another? To an outsider – like my Greek friend – they both amount to the same thing.

I’m not a vet or an animal psychiatrist, so I can’t give anything but an anecdote. I grew up with cats that were both neutered and declawed, and neither cat seemed to hold a grudge against me for putting them under the knife. The only thing that seemed to bother them were the bandages they couldn’t shake off their paws.

Maybe the procedure is cruel to the animal. Or maybe it is just a temporary pain that will help keep one more feline from being kicked to the curb by an angry owner of a newly shredded Lay-Z-Boy.

What I do know is this ban infringes on a person’s right to choose. As one Canadian said when commenting about this issue, “I always thought you Americans were so proud of your constitutional rights.”

Not that I am espousing libertarianism, but he has a point. As with most issues, when it comes to animals, nobody seems to agree, and there are many extreme viewpoints. There are those who elect not to eat meat at all because of their love of animals. That’s very noble. But it is also a noble thing that they have the right to that choice in the first place.

If it had been a majority vote in the city of West Hollywood that had decided on this issue, then that would be a bit different. But, like Fort Collins’ newly passed smoking ban, it was decided by the city council, and not the citizens.

I think for issues that affect so many people directly, the opinion of the city council is not the fairest way to create legislation. But since we still live in a country that elects her president by Electoral College and not majority vote, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Sorry, Fluffy. You can’t smoke that in here.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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