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July 12, 2007

Congress Takes Swipe at Pet Declawing

Sometimes good stuff for animals happens without much fanfare or notice. At The HSUS' recommendation, the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives included report language in legislation to reduce the suffering associated with cat declawing.

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The HSUS has long opposed surgical mutilation of animals, including cat declawing. Declawing is a painful process in which a veterinarian amputates the end digit and claw of a cat's paws—similar to cutting off a person’s finger at the last joint. Scratching is a natural behavior for cats that can be directed to appropriate items such as scratching posts.

Through the years, we've heard a drumbeat of distraught citizens in or seeking public housing who’ve been told by federal Housing and Urban Development officials that they must get their cats declawed. It presents a terrible dilemma—either declaw the animal, or find some other property. The latter is hardly an option for people who are seeking public assistance for housing.

Formal HUD policy doesn’t actually require declawing, but some bureaucrats have claimed it’s a requirement, and those needing subsidized housing have been hard-pressed to challenge the officials’ demands.

In February, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) asked HUD to explain why its officials, known as public housing authorities, were misrepresenting HUD policy and making residents get cats declawed. In its response, the agency basically said, “It’s not our problem.”

We then worked closely with Rep. Kaptur and Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.), Chairman of the subcommittee that oversees HUD’s budget, to get the following language approved by voice vote yesterday in the House Appropriations Committee:

The Committee is concerned about reports that some Public Housing Authorities are requiring residents to declaw their pet cats, although HUD regulations do not contain such a requirement. Declawing is a painful procedure for pets which is almost never medically or behaviorally necessary. The Committee urges HUD to notify all PHAs that declawing is not required in public housing under HUD policy. The Committee further encourages HUD to consider adding an additional clause at the end of Section 960.707(c) of agency regulations which would prohibit PHAs from requiring declawing.

Section 960.707(c) already prohibits public housing authorities from requiring removal of a pet’s vocal chords, a cruel procedure done to silence barking. So it should be a simple matter for HUD to add a line clarifying that housing authorities can’t require pet declawing either. We’ll keep working to make sure HUD follows through on this. It’s great to have outstanding allies and humane advocates like Marcy Kaptur and John Olver at our side.

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