Do bans on ‘cat declawing’ increase the number of cats surrendered to public animal shelters?

In response to a post we did recently about the proposed statewide ban of cat declawing, a FIREPAW reader sent over the data below in support of the argument that a ban on cat declawing does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of cats abandoned to shelters. In fact, the reader argues, relinquishment of cats to shelters has actually been reduced in communities with cat declawing bans.

Of course shelter intake numbers alone do not tell us the full story.  That is because shelter intake data are often a reflection of multiple variables, including directed, aggressive public education campaigns, proactive spay-neuter programs, increases in the number of private (non-public) animal welfare organizations and/or adoption and foster programs, and an increase in available pet-friendly rental housing, to name a few. If shelter data taken following cat declawing bans happen to coincide with any of the variables listed here (as well as several other possible social-political-economic changes), it is difficult at best to tease out the specific factors that may be affecting changes in those data.  Additionally, public shelter intake numbers do not account for the number of cat owners who, rather than face the hassle or perceived scrutiny of taking the furniture-harming cat to the shelter, simply open the back door and send their animals out into the great wide open.

Nonetheless, while irrefutable data may be lacking supporting the argument that ‘cat declawing bans do not trigger an increase of surrendered or abandoned cats’ and/or ‘cat declawing bans can actually lower the number of cats relinquished to public shelters’, there is persuasive evidence that demonstrates public education efforts can and do have an impact on lowering the overall number of animals surrendered to public shelters.  So one powerful tool animal welfare advocates hold is to educate pet owners and potential pet owners about the hardwired behaviors of cats (such as the natural tendency to sharpen their claws) along with realistic and practical problem-solving techniques.  Likewise, educating the public about the potential long-term pain and problems associated with the declawing procedure may have a powerful impact on cat owners’ perceptions about their animals’ well-being, the hard realities of the procedure itself, as well as the need to revisit alternative non-invasive solutions available.

That said, here is the submission from a reader of the piece we posted on the statewide declawing ban article


A FIREPAW reader writes:

“…where declawing has been prohibited in several California cities… relinquishment of cats to shelters after the bans, has gone down.”

 

The combined population of these 5 cities is approximately 5.1 million. The California cities are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Burbank, and Santa Monica.  Here are the statistics:

SHELTER INTAKE STATISTICS BEFORE AND AFTER DECLAW BANS

SANTA MONICA

These numbers are from Alejandro Mendoza, Public Services Administrator – Animal Control Officer, for Santa Monica Animal Control Services

Total Cat Intake
2005-2009 2292
2010-2014 1720

In Santa Monica, CA, the declaw ban became effective approximately 1/1/2010. The cat intake DECREASED 24.9% in the five years after the ban compared to the five years prior to the ban.

BURBANK

These numbers are from Tania Cooper #11755, Burbank Police Dept., Records Technician Supervisor

Total Cat Intake
2005-2009 7660
2010-2014 7163

In Burbank, CA, the declaw ban became effective approximately 1/1/2010. The cat intake DECREASED 6.5% in the five years after the ban compared to the five years prior to the ban.

BERKELEY

These numbers are from Amelia Funghi, Acting Manager, Berkeley Animal Care Services

Total Cat Intake
2005-2009 4080
2010-2014 3546

In Berkeley, CA, the declaw ban became effective approximately 1/1/2010. The cat intake DECREASED 13.1% in the five years after the ban compared to the five years prior to the ban.

SAN FRANCISCO

These numbers are from Anne Bingham, Executive Secretary, Administration, San Francisco Animal Care and Control

Prior-ALL Cats After- ALL cats Prior = 2005-09, the five years prior to the ban
25,172 17,127 After = 2010-14, The five years after the ban

Prior-Surrendered After-Surrendered
7445 4556

Change from 2005-09 to 2010 – 14
ALL cats -32.0%
Surrendered cats -38.8%

LOS ANGELES

These numbers are from Dara Ball, the Los Angeles Animal Service Department IT expert.

2005-09 – 5 years prior to ban = 26,943 owner surrendered cats
2010-14 – 5 years after ban = 15,276 owner surrendered cats

26,942 owner-surrendered cats that came into the Los Angeles shelter system in the five years before the Los Angeles declaw ban went into effect, compared to 15,276 owner-surrendered cats in the five years afterward, a reduction of 43.3%.