El Paso officials are thinking about putting some treatment restrictions on pets, like dogs. The plan would “ban surgical procedures on domestic animals with no medical necessity.” This is part of a larger movement that has been going on for years and has worked in some cities and states.
Cities like Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco had already passed similar laws before New York. In 2019, New York became the first state in the country to ban declawing cats and fine pet owners civilly. While some states, like Maryland, have passed similar laws and others, like Michigan, are thinking about doing the same, declawing is still allowed in the rest of the US. Fewer than a dozen towns in California have banned these procedures, but the state as a whole has not done so. It is also against the law in Pittsburgh and Allentown, Pennsylvania.
A policy proposed by Councilman Chris Canales in El Paso would also ban cosmetic treatments like “tail docking” and “ear cropping,” which are also known as “declawing.”
Ear cropping is an optional surgery that is mostly seen as cosmetic because there isn’t much proof that it improves hearing. It affects about 20 dog breeds, such as Dobermans, Great Danes, boxers, schnauzers, bully breeds, some mastiff breeds, cane corsos, Beaucerons, Manchester terriers, and others.
Declawing, also called onychectomy, and ventriculocordectomy—which means “debarking” or “demeowing” a dog or cat—would also be against the law. There is a catch in the planned change, though: spaying and neutering cats and cutting their ears as part of a legal trap-neuter-release program would still be legal.
An email from Canales, a representative for District 8, to Newsweek said, “I have always thought that these kinds of non-medically necessary procedures, very invasive ones that are only done for looks or for the owners’ convenience, are cruel and inhumane.” “It was easy for me to bring this proposal forward once I realized that they aren’t already against the city’s code.”
“Pets are a part of the family, and I would hope that nobody would inflict these kinds of procedures on their children or other family members, especially those who are not able to choose for themselves.”
He also said that the main goal of this proposal is to make sure that domestic animals in El Paso are treated fairly and with care. He said that it “aligns with contemporary standards of animal welfare and veterinary medicine and embodies El Paso’s values as a community that strives to be compassionate and responsible.” Canales used statements made by the American Veterinary Medical Association, which has spoken out against these kinds of treatments and tried to stop them from happening.
If given the green light, his plan would be sent to the neighborhood Animal Shelter Advisory Committee for their opinion. After 90 days, a draft of the change would be sent back to the city government.
Many animal hospitals across the country have banned onychectomies. A report released by Today’s Veterinary Business in 2020 said that declawing was banned at all 875 Veterinary Centers of America locations run by Mars Inc. This was followed by the same rule at 1,050 Banfield Pet Hospitals and 80 BluePearl practices. All 115 VCA sites in Canada put in place the same ban in 2018.
Most pet insurance companies don’t cover declawing cats or cutting off their tails because they are considered “optional surgeries.” Some plans also don’t cover breed-specific illnesses or preventative care like teeth cleanings or vaccinations unless the owners have chosen to have their insurance cover them as part of a wellness plan.
Some types of pet insurance cover injuries and accidents that happen to your pet, like broken bones, torn ligaments, or attacks from other animals, like bug bites that could be very dangerous. It’s also possible to cover diseases and illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.
Kathleen Schatzmann, Strategic Legislative Affairs Manager for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), told Newsweek via email, “The ALDF is glad that the El Paso city council is thinking about a ban on cat declawing.” “Declawing is an invasive surgery in which the last bone of each toe is cut off. This is similar to cutting off a human finger at the last knuckle. The procedure is usually done for human comfort rather than for the cat’s health.”
“We urge more jurisdictions to enact such bans and ask the Texas legislature to make this a statewide ban to prioritize animals’ health and respect for their natural behaviors.” The ALDF is also trying to get statewide bans passed in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, among other places.