|Magpie, the editor..|
The conversation started as they always do... We reminded each other how much we needed each other. How hard we were working, and, how the road blocks never seem to lessen, soften, widen, or cease. We always start with gratitude for our friendship and commiseration on common ground.
Karen has made numerous trips around the country visiting rescues, organizations and other role models for feral cats in the hopes she can pick up some of the tips and tools of their successes to carry back home for the benefit of New Jerseys over whelming under served misplaced community cats. She is a woman on a mission and she has gumption, intelligence, and resources. I admire and adore her.
Her dilemma du jour was causing her ulcers to erupt. She was curious and reluctantly pessimistic to see what my opinion and stance on declawing was? I could hear the trepidation and despair in her voice as she muttered, "I cannot believe this ban might actually stall in NJ? The veterinary association and even my own vet, who I have known and trusted for years, is opposed to the ban. How could anyone be opposed to this ban?" (see more on NJ's proposed ban here)
I knew that the long pause at the end of her question was laden with despair should my title provide another disappointment in the current state of animal care humanity.
Her naive misplaced assumption was that NJ Vet Association, and, her own beloved vet who are sworn to the "protection of animal health and welfare, and the prevention and relief of animal suffering" love cats. How then could they oppose banning the removal of the end of these cats fingers? Anyone with any personal investment in animal care wouldn't accept this as appropriate form of animal husbandry?
Sad truth be told, it is the well affirmed time honored tradition for all of the Vet Med associations to oppose anything that might infringe on their ability to do anything they want to. We can speak out of one smiling side of our mouth passing out cartoon books to kids about the honor and pride in being a custodian of the livestock, food supply and bed fellow, but, the other side is desperate to maintain a veil of blind trust. This includes too many horrific antiquated realities like debarking, animal testing, and almost completely unregulated (wrt compassion seeking hidden cameras) protected slaughterhouse practices which are definitely not for the feint of heart. We also vehemently rationalize pets as property for every reason, including that we euthanize when owners cannot, will not, or do not want to pay for care, services, assistance or treatment. We want to do whatever we can to earn a living without any government interference, oversight, or laws, just like every other professional organization big enough to have a bank account, a lobbyist firm and eyes to monitor every animal related rule, law or proposal.
|My Wren.. My heart fills with her near me.|
I wrote a blog on this a long time ago, What You Need To Know Before You Declaw, about my feelings on amputating toes to save furniture.
I admitted to my dear friend that of all of the amazing things I am proud of at my clinic there was one subject that caused more dissension and resistance than anything else; my declaration of prohibition of declawing. It was the first, and subsequently only, time that I refused to allow the vets to do what they want to based on what they think is best practice. I would hate to work for someone who micromanaged me, and therefore, I don't, (or at least try very hard not to), do it to others. We had varying opinions on the practice, but my heart, our practice philosophy and how we look ourselves in the mirror when these declawed cats come back to us for euthanasia (after I feel responsible in some part for their current state) left me feeling like I just had to say no, for good, and forever.
I decided that I feel obligated to be true to our motto of being a "cruelty free safe haven" and this is will remain our first obligation. I also did not want to profit on something I did not support. The ban has been in effect for one year. It has been the right decision. My conscious is clear as I help the cats in our community find a better life and a more accepting attitude for them to be who they are.
|Jitterbug full on cat nap on our bed.|
1. We can provide it safer than the back yard do-it-your-selfers. My response; I cannot answer this other than to hold up a coat hanger and remind ourselves cats wouldn't choose to have their toes cut off regardless of the degree of expertise yielding the blade.
2. We provide pain management. Me; OK, isn't that ethically responsible for everything we do?
3. We only do it if the pet has no other options to stay in the home. Me; And those peeing cats? What do we remove to save from euthanizing them? We do not lower our standards of acceptable care because others lack them to begin with.
4. We do it to protect people who have bleeding disorders. Me; There are other ways to keep nails from being so sharp, like trimming, or even use glue on nail covers.
5. Economics. No one wants to say it out loud but we vets make money on declawing cats. At my clinic it was about $500. I know of other clinics who charge upwards of $1500 to declaw. The surgery is quick, easy and lucrative.
|The nephews start to socialize the newest clinic orphans|
1. The cats are clawing their owners furniture. Protect the furniture by maiming the housemate?
2. It has been a practice vets have offered for decades. In the USA it is accepted as a matter of historical precedence. We vets have failed to provide the time to educate owners on why cats use their claws, and how to curb it. We fail to provide the needed network of support to save these cats from surgery, surrender, frustration when they inevitably try to evolve from a predator who hunts, climbs, and explores to a sedentary pet with as much inconvenience as a fish. Neither party has made a strong effort to evolve into a more compassionate caretaker.
Like every unwanted behavior intuitive to a species it takes time, training, and patience, and yes, some degree of acceptance that we can live together with each others undesirable ticks and compulsions.
Where was my friend to go take her rescue organizations rallying for a bill everyone should be agreeing upon from here? Simple; to remember that if we can find our common ground, our common purpose, we can start the discussion and make meaningful change for the betterment of cats everywhere.
My personal advice for her dilemma given the lack of compassion she sees her vet possessing: Find someone else to care for your pets after telling her why you are leaving. In the end I would guess her position is based on the reasons I list above. Support the vets who you find common ground with. Ultimately your vet needs to be someone you trust and believe in.
1. Learn how to trim your pets nails. I have YouTube videos to help with this. At my clinic we offer free demonstrations with the technicians to help get our clients comfortable with restraining and trimming.
2. Offer your cats options to be the tactile I love the corrugated scratching mats. I bait them with fresh dried organic catnip weekly. They are placed all over my home. They are the disposable demolishable offerings I provide to allow them to release their inner prowess. I vacuum them weekly and replace them about every 6 months.
3. I discourage clawing the furniture by providing acceptable options in the areas they choose to scratch. I either place a blanket over the corner of the chair, or place a scratching board or mat nearby.
4. I understand and acknowledge that my cats claw in my presence for attention. It is their non-verbal way of saying "HEY! I am here! What's up with you today?" I always reply with a "Good Morning!" and pick them up for an acknowledgement cuddle. Yelling at them when they are saying 'hello', looking for loving attention does not articulate to them that I am upset they are scratching. They DO NOT correlate the scratching to my disapproving discipline. They just hear "BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! Magpie!" Which translates to "I hate you Magpie!" She has no idea what she did or why I would be harsh to her. NEVER EVER EVER YELL AT A CAT! It is counterproductive and cruel.
It is up to us, the veterinary profession, to place patient care above all else. Not our wallets, not our clients furniture, and not the rest of the excuses to not advocate for our patients welfare. Period. My gut tells me that this won't happen. We will remain stuck in old outdated unshared beliefs and actions and further grow the divide. I also believe that the masses demanding change will call us out on our hypocrisy.
Be on the first wave of turning the tides. Build your practice on compassion. I can attest to it being the most lucrative way to grow with a direction you aren't stuck killing an angry painful cat on.
I will stand on this soapbox alone as the single vet screaming at the rest of my profession and declare that we know better. We see the best of our clients affections for their companions. I will challenge us to never place personal or financial gain above the health, wellness, happiness, and personal protection we owe our patients. They should be who we serve to protect first. It will happen. One state at a time, one vet shaming at a time, one bold outspoken animal advocate at a time chipping away on tradition, fear to embrace the true side that builds our businesses and aligns with our own experiences and sad declaw stories. We do know better. We owe our cats better. We have an opportunity to really be the trusted advocate we portray ourselves as. I don't believe that many of us really still regurgitate the empty words that "just because we have been doing it for decades" is a valid excuse to keep on putting ourselves first.
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