Today over on PetMD’s DailyVet, I’ve penned a post on the subject of declawing and the debate that rages within veterinary medicine over its legal status. As if the issue wasn’t contentious enough, California’s inner battles have served to highlight the divisions among our ranks with respect to the procedure’s appropriateness in our surgical arsenal...or lack thereof.

Personally, I detest declawing. When offered to clients as a no-brainer add-on to a kitten spay or neuter, I find it especially abhorrent. Apparently, so does the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which believes it should be made available only as a last resort––i.e., only when all other options to curb destructive or injurious behavior have been exhausted.

You can read my take on California’s situation and the legality of declaws over on DailyVet. Here, I’m more interested in discussing the tone of the debate as I wonder what you think about this anti-declaw ad currently posted on a billboard in West Hollywood, California:

Though my own personal taste lends itself well to off-beat, blackish humor, I can’t help wondering what the vast majority of Californians might think when this ad sinks in. Does it disgust? Will it change behavior? Will they even get it?

More to my original point, what does it say about the tenor of the debate? Is this kind of in-your-face advertising unhelpful to the reasoned arguments pro and con? Or is it all fair game, given that the animal welfare imperatives are so pressing when it comes to removing the first knuckle of a cat’s individual digits?

After all, we want society to see declawing for what it is. One recent client’s experience highlights this problem:

An owner gets his very first kitten ever, a beautiful Siamese he’s wanted for years to own, waiting patiently for the right time to take on a pet. When the time comes for her spay, he drops her off at a "high-quality" hospital (read: fancy and expensive) grudgingly, worried for her anesthetic tolerance, pain level, etc. When he gets a call later asking him if he’d like to declaw her at the same time, he says, “If that’s what you recommend.”

Now, you may want to kick this owner for his lack of due diligence, but when months go by and his cat fails to recover, you’ve got to feel pretty bad for this guy––not to mention his cat. Two years and two more surgeries later, his beloved pet is still all wrong. A second opinion (me) finds draining tracts at her feet and X-rays reveal an incomplete declaw of all ten digits.

The owner is furious at himself, and has been ever since he realized that a declaw is not a simple procedure. Yet when it comes right down to it, it’s the hospital’s fault. We all know that.

While the hospital was clearly responsible for using poor technique, where it really failed was in neglecting to offer the owner a fair and informed choice. Not only did it fail to explain the procedure, it didn’t give the owner a chance to research its implications and/or request specialized pain protocols. It also didn’t tell the owner to eschew traditional kitty litter after the procedure (which the hospital claimed was the cause of her complications).

Because so many inexperienced owners will understandably approach a declaw procedure with this degree of ignorance, it makes me think: How much feline suffering might be averted should more owners stop to ponder one distasteful bit of advertising. I wonder.