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Brandon vet urges ban on declawing of cats

Brandon veterinarian Dr. Sandy Barclay says declawing a cat entails amputation of its toes.

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Brandon veterinarian Dr. Sandy Barclay says declawing a cat entails amputation of its toes.

Declawing is not the cat's meow, and Dr. Sandy Barclay is inviting other Manitoba veterinarians to join her in ending the painful practice.

Barclay, the owner/director of the Brandon Animal Clinic, has publicly pledged she will no longer perform declawing surgery on cats.

The Winnipeg Humane Society said Barclay is the first Manitoba veterinarian to publicly take that position, next to Dr. Erika Anseeuw at the WHS where it has never been done.

"If people know what is entailed in the surgery, they probably wouldn't do it. They don't realize it's an amputation of every toe," said Barclay, who made the announcement on the Brandon Animal Clinic's Facebook page on July 3. "Declawing cats is just so inappropriate. We don't take our dogs' teeth out because they chew our shoes, so I'm not sure why we're doing that to cats."

Barclay, a veterinarian for 24 years, said a similar surgery on a person would involve cutting off the tips of each finger at the last joint.

"Watching cats recover from it is terrible. They wake up with bandages up to their elbows, they're in severe pain and they often won't use their front feet. If they do shake their bandages off, they bleed terribly. It's rough, and we used to do maximum support (pain relief). So I am very thankful that I don't do it anymore."

Barclay's impetus for change was The Paw Project (pawproject.org), the 2013 documentary film that follows Hollywood veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Conrad's campaign to have declawing bans enacted in several California cities. Conrad is a veterinarian who cares for and treats large cats who appear in films, shows or live in animal sanctuaries. After seeing many declawed cats suffering from chronic pain, unable to walk or living with mutilated paws, Conrad began the Paw Project charity to help pay for expensive surgeries to try to repair damage and relieve pain in cats who have been declawed.

Anseeuw, the WHS director of animal health, said she 'liked' The Pet Project on Facebook and got the post that Dr. Barclay was not declawing cats anymore.

"I thought it's excellent and I told our (WHS) publicity people we need to recognize that's the first veterinarian in the province to take a stand and we should support her and start the conversation with our supporters," Anseeuw said. Congratulations to Barclay were posted on the WHS Facebook page.

"It's mutilation. It's using surgery to treat a behaviour problem. With cats, scratching is normal behaviour, and all you have to do is provide them with something appropriate to scratch on and they'll use that instead of furniture," Anseeuw said.

Barclay now offers a free, 30-minute consultation to any client wanting a declaw, during which she or her associate, veterinarian Dr. Tracy Radcliffe, will discuss safe and humane alternatives, such as reliable scratching posts, location of scratching items and Soft Paws nail caps.

Barclay, who has four cats of her own, said she has long been against declawing and hasn't declawed one of her own felines in 18 years after watching her pet's horrible recovery.

"He always walked differently. If he jumped down a certain way, he'd always hold his paws up," Barclay said.

She said she once treated a 10-year-old cat who was declawed at another practice who had "abscesses in all of her toes."

Anseeuw said declawed cats are surrendered at the WHS often because of issues resulting from the declawing. Cats have started urinating in the house instead of the litter box because their paws hurt when they try to scratch in the litter box. Cats who were once kind can start biting.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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