In 2009, my husband and I adopted a kitten from our local humane society. Prior to his adoption, our landlord had not mentioned a requirement to declaw our cats, nor requested documentation of such. However, when we alerted management of our intent to adopt a new cat, she requested verification of the surgery.
This is a decision we did not wish to make. Current research shows that declawing is a painful procedure, essentially clipping the cat's toes at the first knuckle. It
fundamentally alters a cat's gait and stride, potentially resulting in a lifetime of
discomfort when walking. Botched surgery can lead to re-growth later in life,
resulting in painful infections and abscesses, as happened with our older cat at age
12. After surgery, a large percentage of cats display markedly different behavior,
such as aggression, anxiety, and inappropriate litter box use. The number of cats
surrendered to shelters is disproportionately slanted toward declawed cats.
In some areas, it is nearly impossible to find rental housing that does not require
declawing. These policies make little sense, for several reasons. First, all apartments require a security deposit. It is assumed that this deposit is held in case of damage to the apartment, whether by residents, their children, their guests, or their pets. In addition, if an apartment complex allows pets, there is usually a pet deposit or nonrefundable pet fee, presumably used for the same purpose. This is generally on top of "pet rent", or a monthly $10 - $15 per pet, per month. Suffice it to say, apartment dwellers pay a premium for the ability to keep pets. If these fees are not used to defray costs associated with damage done by pets, why are they in place? Second, cats with claws, if trained in proper scratching behavior, are unlikely to cause damage to apartments. The Humane Society of the United States states that, "Cats may scratch some furnishings and drapes, but it is rare for cats to scratch other surfaces in an apartment." Third, many alternatives to declawing exist. Cats, if properly taught from a young age, generally will stick to using a scratching post or other product designed for clawing. Routine nail trimming keeps the cat's claws blunt. Plastic nail caps designed to cover the entire claw are available in pet stores. Finally, several major animal welfare organizations do not support requirements to declaw. For instance, the Humane Society of the United States advises, "Because removing claws is painful to cats, the Humane Society of the United States opposed declawing when it is done solely for the convenience of caregivers or rental managers." The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals similarly states, "The ASPCA discourages declawing and tendonectomies because of the extreme pain that these surgeries inevitably cause."
While declawing is illegal in many other countries (the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan, among others) and several localities (Norfolk, Virginia and many cities in
California), this particular petition is not geared toward outlawing the procedure. Instead, I would like take a first step toward that end and propose legislation preventing a landlord from requiring cat declawing. If an owner wishes to declaw, they may make that choice; however, their pets should not be forced into surgery as a condition of obtaining rental housing.
Little evidence exists to suggest that declaw surgery prevents damage to apartments. Furthermore, fees and deposits paid by pet owners are sufficient to cover any cleaning and repair costs incurred. A recommendation by the House Appropriations Committee, when authoring allocations for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for fiscal year 2008, concurred. Regarding public housing requirements, the Committee stated, "Declawing is a painful procedure for pets which is almost never medically or behaviorally necessary. The Committee urges HUD to notify all Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to consider adding an additional provision to section 960.707(c) of HUD's regulations...that would prohibit PHAs from requiring declawing."
Happily, things worked out for our new kitten, as our landlord was willing to accept
that we would trim his claws and provide him with appropriate scratching materials.
Other cats, however, are not so lucky. Please sign this petition today and stop rental agencies from requiring our pets to undergo painful, life-altering surgery.