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Subject: Declawing Banned Nationwide Under Animal Welfare Act
PAW PROJECT ANNOUNCES VICTORY FOR ANIMALS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2006
310 795-6215 or 877 PAW-PROJECT
Contact: Jennifer Conrad, DVM
Declawing Banned nationwide under Animal Welfare act
LOS ANGELES, September 12 – Declawing captive wild or exotic animals such as lions, tigers, wolves and bears is no longer permitted under the federal Animal Welfare Act. In the recently announced policy decision of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency has declared that declawing, the amputation of the claw-forming bone of an animal's foot, cannot be performed with the intent of making the animals easier to handle. According to the USDA, declawing is "no longer considered to be acceptable when performed solely for handling or husbandry purposes since (declawing) can cause considerable pain and discomfort to the animal and may result in chronic health problems." Defanging, or the removal of canine teeth, from these animals and from primates, such as monkeys and apes, has also been banned.
"This policy change is the culmination of efforts by many animal advocates within and outside the USDA," stated Dr. Jennifer Conrad, director of the Paw Project and exotic animal veterinarian. "It will spare captive animals the crippling pain and misery caused by declawing."
The new policy applies to animals held by USDA license holders including exhibitors, dealers and breeders of wild and exotic animals, as well as research facilities. This decision is estimated to affect thousands of animals. Though the new policy does not affect animals previously altered by these methods, it will protect all animals that have not had these procedures already performed.
Continued routine use of these procedures may subject USDA license holders to citation for noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act and may result in a fine or license revocation.
The crippling effects of declawing were first presented in a scientific paper by Dr. Jennifer Conrad at the 2002 conference of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. An attendee of the conference, Dr. Timothy Reichard, then a veterinarian at the Toledo Zoo, expressed interest in Dr. Conrad’s findings. Armed with her data, Dr. Reichard authored the 2004 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) animal welfare position paper which opposes declawing big cats and which is the basis for the new USDA policy.
USDA Big Cat Specialist, Dr. Laurie Gage has written that "declawing big cats, especially the larger species, is inhumane" and that "depriving them of their claws because they have an owner who has no idea of how to handle or manage them seems unjustified."
The declawing of wild and exotic cats is already illegal in California as the result of AB 1857, the Paw Project-sponsored bill, which was authored by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2004. Declawing is classified as "mutilation" by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the British counterpart of the AVMA.
Currently there are more than 100 big cat sanctuaries in 41 states caring for thousands of declawed cats. Since 2000, veterinarians working with the Paw Project have performed reparative surgery on over fifty lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, and jaguars that had been victims of declaw surgery. The surgery cannot replace the missing claws, but can lessen many of the crippling effects of declawing.
"This is a major victory for the animals and those who care about them," said Conrad.
For more information, please contact Paw Project director Dr. Jennifer Conrad at 310-795-6215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Learn more about the work of the Paw Project.
Animal Welfare policies
August 2006 Policy #3 Veterinary Care:
Policies Animal Care Resource Guide
Veterinary Care Issue Date: August 18, 2006
Procedures Not to be Used in Wild or Exotic Carnivores or Nonhuman Primates
Declawing of wild (indigenous) and exotic (nonindigenous) carnivores and the removal or reduction of canine teeth in nonhuman primates and wild and exotic carnivores have been used in the past in an attempt to minimize dangers presented during human interaction with these species. These procedures are not innocuous and can cause ongoing pain, discomfort, or other pathological conditions in the animals. Providing adequate veterinary care for nonhuman primates and wild and exotic carnivores does not allow for the removal or reduction of canine teeth for any reason other that immediate veterinary need of the animal, or the declawing of any wild or exotic carnivore. Any medical treatment of a paw problem should be limited to the affected digit(s) or area and would not require bilateral declawing.
We are adopting the position statements of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on these practices because the AVMA is the largest veterinary medical organization in the United States, these positions reflect the generally accepted veterinary standards. Not everyone has access to the AVMA information, so we are including the position statements of the AVMA (2006):
“Declawing Captive Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Cats The AVMA opposes declawing captive exotic and other wild (indigenous) cats for nonmedical reasons.” “Removal or Reduction of Canine Teeth in Captive Nonhuman Primates or Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Carnivores The AVMA is opposed to removal or reduction of canine teeth in captive nonhuman primates or exotic and wild (indigenous) carnivores, except when required for medical treatment or scientific research approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Reduction that does not expose the pulp cavity may be acceptable. Reduction that exposes the pulp cavity, without pulpotomy or root canal, or removal of these teeth may result in oral pathologic conditions and pain. To minimize bite wounds, recommended alternatives to dental surgery include behavioral modification, environmental enrichment, and changes in group composition.”~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Trouble at wild-animal parks? Study cites lax US regulations for private exhibitors.
By Mark Clayton Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
August 31, 2006
The grainy picture, taken at a private wild-animal park, shows a girl reaching out to pet, or grab, the tail of a full-grown leopard. How will the leopard react?
As the debate over private ownership of exotic pets intensifies in the US, attention is also beginning to fall on private wildlife exhibits that display "big cats" like lions, tigers, and leopards.
Licensed by the US government, these parks are required to put "significant barriers" between visitors and big cats. But there's enough gray area in the law so that some facilities permit close contact with the animals, including touching them - sometimes with tragic results.
In the year since 17-year-old Haley Hilderbrand was fatally mauled while posing for her senior photo with a leashed tiger at a Kansas wild-animal park, pressure has grown at federal and state levels to explicitly ban public contact with big cats at facilities that are licensed and regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In April, Kansas became the first state to ban direct contact between humans and potentially dangerous animals at wildlife exhibits. It also joined 21 states that prohibit private ownership of certain big cats.
Last month, Rep. Jim Ryun (R) of Kansas introduced legislation in Congress to beef up the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which governs animal safety at USDA-regulated facilities. His bill would prohibit direct contact between big cats and the public and require the USDA to write public-safety regulations for exhibitor licensees.
Activists say AWA rules are too weak to ensure that the animals are securely kept and well maintained - or to protect humans from the animals on display. "We're not even that critical of the USDA because it doesn't really have the authority it needs to deal with the public-safety problem," says Greg Wetstone of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a Yarmouth Port, Mass., animal rights group.
About 5,000 lions, tigers, and other big cats are kept by nearly 700 USDA big-cat licensees in the United States. Someone seeking a license to exhibit tigers is subject to requirements similar to those for someone seeking a goat license, IFAW reported last week, after a year-long investigation of such facilities.
As a result, in states where private ownership of exotic animals is banned, people can legally keep their animals by getting a USDA license as an exhibitor. In a rising number of cases, license applicants are mom-and-pop outfits building animal collections.
"These animals are dangerous, and it takes a lot to contain and feed them," says Mr. Wetstone of the IFAW, which included in its report the grainy photo of the girl touching the leopard. "So some folks decide to make a few bucks and escape state rules barring them as pets. They go get a USDA license."
The IFAW report - which looked at 42 wild-animal exhibits in 11 states, all USDA-licensed - cites these problems.
• Most of these big-cat facilities are "structurally unsound."
• Most allow public contact between people and big cats.
• "Vermin and grossly inadequate sewage disposal" are often evident. Meat fed to big cats is often rotten.
• Many facilities have no attendants at big-cat exhibits, and some "allowed children to work as attendants."
In the past decade, there have been 13 big-cat-related incidents in Florida, 12 in Texas, six in California, and five each in Illinois, Nevada, Minnesota, and Kansas. Since 1990, 13 people have died in these incidents, IFAW says.
A USDA spokesman says AWA regulations are adequate to keep the public safe and are zealously policed by its team of inspectors.
"There is no public-safety crisis," says Darby Holladay with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "Whenever any incident occurs, the USDA animal-care program looks into it. If there's a possible violation of the Animal Welfare Act, enforcement action is taken."
The process can be slow. In the case of the park in Kansas where Hilderbrand was mauled, the USDA has yet to decide on whether to revoke the operator's big-cat license.
Critics of the IFAW report say it fails to deliver specific violations at specific facilities. "I don't think it's a well-informed report," says Marcus Cook, spokesman for the Feline Conservation Federation, which represents big-cat exhibitors. "If they know something, let's report it. If you've got a valid complaint, let's make it to the USDA. Don't just throw a bunch of numbers out there."
An IFAW member says the group has more than 2,000 photos documenting the violations cited in its report. "Our staff member was at [one] facility when a leopard bit the finger off an untrained worker," says Josephine Martell, a principal author of the report. "You can't just say, 'here's the tiger. Take care of him. I'm going to get some coffee.' But that's what's happening."