Landlords have been forcing tenants to mutilate their cats and dogs if they want to rent apartments. Fortunately, California is making them stop.
Until recently, landlords could require tenants to declaw their cats and devocalize their dogs. These are not trivial procedures, but serious operations that agonize the animals and have lasting negative effects.
“Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s ‘toes,’” not just a fingernail trim, according to veterinarian Christianne Schelling. “It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period.”
“Declaw surgery exposes cats to the risks of general anesthesia and complications of the surgical procedure, which include bleeding, infection, lameness, nerve damage, gangrene, extensive tissue damage, and death,” the Paw Project explains.
Declawing cats makes them vulnerable to predators if they spend time outdoors or escape from their homes. Their claws are “their primary means of defense” and also help them escape to safety by climbing trees. Deprived of their claws, cats can become fearful and withdrawn.
Cats also use their claws for balance, and to exercise and stretch their muscles by digging into a surface “and pulling back against their own clawhold — similar to isometric exercising for humans,” according to Declawing.com. Without their claws they cannot exercise and stretch properly, which “can cause back pain” and other physical problems.
Amputating the first joint of a cat’s toes is such a drastic, painful surgery that at least 25 countries have banned it, including England, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.
Presumably landlords who require declawing believe that it will protect their property. But even if a cat with claws does cause property damage, for example by scratching a rug, repairs can be paid for out of the tenant’s security deposit. Money doesn’t justify the damage and suffering this mutilation causes defenseless creatures.
Devocalizing dogs is also radical and inhumane. It is the cutting or removal of a dog’s vocal cords. The surgery can substantially decrease a dog’s quality of life, without offering any benefit to the dog. It can make dogs gag on food and even water. Scar tissue can make it hard for devocalized dogs to breathe.
This video features some of the victims of devocalization, also known as “debarking”:
People subject dogs to this cruelty for their own convenience. Some breeders routinely devocalize all of their dogs so that neighbors don’t complain about noise. Dogfighters and hoarders may devocalize dogs to hide their cruel and illegal activities. Some show dog exhibitors choose to silence their dogs to keep them “quiet in transit between shows or in the ring.”
Landlords who require tenants to subject their dogs to devocalization probably hope that it will reduce noise complaints from other tenants. Training dogs when they should not bark can achieve the same effect without causing suffering and even death. Addressing the reasons for a dog’s frequent barking is even better: the most common causes are “Loneliness, boredom and distress,” according to Pat Miller, a certified dog behavior consultant and past president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
Devocalization is entirely illegal in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Kudos to California for not making residents choose between shelter and their companion animals’ health, safety and wellbeing.
Photo credit: iStockphoto