Partial Digital Amputation (Onychectomy, Declawing) of Non-Domestic Felids and Other Carnivores Kept in Human Care – Position Statement
February 10, 2021
Preamble: While veterinarians are urged to strongly discourage the ownership of wild or exotic animals as pets, this Position Statement will not focus on that issue. For more information on the personal ownership of wild or exotic animals and the obligations of veterinarians regarding education of the public on this topic, the reader is directed to the Position Statement on the Keeping of Native or Exotic Animals as Pets.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes the surgical removal of claws (onychectomy) of non-domestic felids and other non-domestic carnivores kept in human care, except where medically necessary for the animal’s health. In addition, the CVMA advocates for veterinarians to exert their influence to discourage the keeping of non-domestic felids and other non-domestic carnivores as pets.
Onychectomy (declawing) of non-domestic carnivores constitutes a partial digital amputation and is a painful procedure with a lengthy healing period. Post-surgical consequences may adversely affect the animal’s health and welfare resulting in lifelong discomfort.
- Despite efforts by veterinarians and other animal health professionals to educate the public regarding the risks to animals and people of private ownership of wild or exotic species (1), non-domestic feline species and other carnivores (such as bears, wolves, raccoons, and coatis) are occasionally kept as pets - or in non-accredited zoos or wildlife parks. Some of these animals have been subjected to declawing to prevent injury to the owner, or to other humans and animals (1-4).
- Onychectomy (declawing) of these animals constitutes a partial digital amputation and is a painful procedure involving a lengthy healing period. Post-surgical consequences may adversely affect the animal’s health and welfare.
- Post-operative complications, including infection, hemorrhage, bone spurs, and claw re-growth, may occur (2,3).
- Declawing may result in lifelong discomfort for the animal, and corrective surgery may be necessary to address post-operative complications (2-4).
- Accredited zoological institutions have codes of professional ethics that prohibit the mutilation of animals for cosmetic purposes, or the alteration of physical appearances without valid husbandry or medical reasons (5). Private practitioners who are requested to engage in any surgical procedures including onychectomy, for non-medical reasons on wild or exotic species are strongly urged to adopt that ethical standard.
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Keeping of Native or Exotic Wild Animals as Pets. Position Statement 2016. Available from: http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/keeping-native-or-exotic-wild-animals-as-pets Last accessed September, 27, 2020.
- Conrad J, Wendelburg K, Santinelli S, Park A. Deleterious effects of onychectomy (declawing) in exotic felids and a reparative surgical technique: A preliminary report. Proc Am Assoc Zoo Vet 2002:16-20.
- Fowler ME, McDonald SE. Untoward effects of onychectomy in wild felids and ursids. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1982; 181:1242-1245.
- Nyhus PJ, Tilson RL, Tomlinson JL. Dangerous animals in captivity: ex situ tiger conflict and implications for private ownership of exotic animals. Zoo Biol. 2003; 22(6):573-86.
Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums. Code of Professional Ethics. 2016.
(Revised October 2020)