Tara Hellewell, executive director of Central Alberta Humane Society, visits with Max, a three-year-old tabby cat, who was declawed by a former owner. He was surrendered to the society and now needs a new home. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Cosmetic surgeries are on the way out for pets in Alberta

Central Alberta Humane Society commend decision

Alberta veterinarians are convinced they’re barking up the right tree in banning medically unnecessary surgeries on pets, such as declawing cats or removing part of pure bred dogs’ tails.

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association passed a resolution to ban such surgical procedures and require veterinarians and veterinary technologists to report animal abuse and neglect.

Association president Dr. Lisa Lomsnes said the majority of members were strongly in favour of prohibiting unnecessary procedures.

“This has been coming for quite some time. Six other provinces are already on board with this, so this is nothing new,” said Lomsnes, a Red Deer veterinarian.

“The goal is to make the animals a priority and prevent unnecessary cosmetic surgery for their welfare.”

The resolution recommends a ban on all unnecessary medical or surgical procedures, which includes: ear cropping, tail docking, tail nicking, tail blocking, partial digit amputation (declawing or onychectomy), cosmetic dentistry, tattooing that is not for the purpose of registration and identification, body piercing and devocalization.

The association will propose amendments to the regulations that govern the profession.

Lomsnes said the ban is something that needs to be writing. Universities do not consider the procedures ethical and have not taught them for years. The majority of the public are also on board, she said.

“We do not believe this is going to affect the pure bred industry. They can still have amazing animals, just with normal tails and normal ears,” Lomsnes said.

Dr. Katie Graves, of Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital, said hopefully, breed standards will change.

“Yorkies usually have a short tail, and they’re born with a long tail. When they’re like three days old, the tail gets cut off,” Graves said.

“You dock the tail too short, it can definitely cause some back issues. You can have chronic ear infections with the ear cropping.”

Declawing a cat is basically removing the tip of their fingers, which can cause nerve pain for the rest of their lives, said Graves.

Tara Hellewell, executive director of the Central Alberta Humane Society, said she has met cat owners who vigorously justify why they have declawed their cats.

A better solution is the addition of more scratching posts, nail caps to cover claws, or behaviour training to stop cats from scratching furniture.

“At the end of the day, if that’s such a big concern for you, you shouldn’t have a cat. Declawing surgery is such a cruel thing to do to an animal,” said Hellewell, who recommended people check out The Paw Project on Facebook.

She said a handful of declawed cats come to the Red Deer shelter each year, as well as a few dogs that have undergone cosmetic procedures.

“We understand there’s going to be some work to do here in changing some attitudes. The kennel club in the U.K. changed their rules so they didn’t allow animals that were surgically altered into the ring anymore. Those are the kinds of changes that need to happen for us too.”


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