In Northern California, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously yesterday to ban the declawing of cats within its city limits. The news was shared with me just after the vote by Anthony Sanchez, Chief of Staff for City of Council member Jesse Arreguin.

Councilman Arreguin called declawing a "horrific" procedure that only benefits the owner of the cat. He co-authored the bill with Councilwoman Susan Wengraf. Arreguin added that in passing the law, the city of Berkeley stays true to its "history of being humane to all of its creatures."

(Image: lazy_lobster)

At least six California cities have now passed such a ban. West Hollywood was the first, I believe, followed by Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica and now Berkeley.

Declawing is not a simple nail trim.

"It's a complex

and painful procedure — you remove the bone at the end of the paw — and

it's only for the benefit of the owner," Arreguin said.

It is my understanding that there are certain rare cases where a medical condition, such as cancer in the paw region, might warrant surgical claw removal, but the vast majority of operations are performed when owners don't want their cats to scratch the furniture or to use their claws in any way.

The California Veterinary Medical Association and some other influential groups have opposed banning cat declawing, on the grounds that it puts a medical decision in the hands of legislators. Reading between the lines, they don't support declawing, but may be concerned that the ban could set a precedent for other cases.

Carl Singer, a veterinarian in Hayward, California, represents the CVMA. He said that he's been placed in situations where the choice was declaw or euthanize the cat.

But other vets came to the council meeting and spoke in favor of the ban, pointing out that declawing can lead to serious complications, such as heavy bleeding, infection and even the "painful regrowth of deformed claws."

In Berkeley, cat declawing will be a misdemeanor that is punishable by a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.

My guess is that additional cities could pass similar bans in the coming weeks. At immediate issue is a California bill, SB 762, which becomes law on January 1, 2010. The law prevents CA cities from restricting procedures performed by veterinarians.