According to The Paw Project, 36,117,000 households have a pet cat in the home, and approximately 25% of these cats are declawed. The Paw Project’s mission is to educate the public about the effects of cat declawing and to promote animal welfare by ending the practice of declaw surgery. It also helps rehabilitate declawed big cats. Its documentary film takes viewers inside the declawing issue.
Paw Project Founder Dr. Jennifer Conrad has over two decades of experience caring for wildlife on six continents. In her former role as head veterinarian at a wildlife sanctuary, Dr. Conrad founded The Paw Project, which rehabilitates big cats that have been maimed by declawing. She has been a proactive spokesperson advocating humane alternatives to declaw surgery and has been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs to educate the public about the mutilating effects of feline declawing.
ALLISON: Tell me about your background with the Paw Project?
JENNIFER: At one point I was taking care of 40 big cats who had been crippled by declawing. I started to ask around about how to repair their paws. We put together a plan and took a declawed tiger to surgery and when he woke up he was standing normally. This made me want to take all the cats to surgery.
One day, I was hosting a guest, Hernan Molina, who was the deputy to the mayor of West Hollywood. He had come to visit me on a day when I was working with an African lioness whose paws we repaired a few days earlier. She didn’t want to take her bandages off. I guess her paws felt so much better, she thought she should continue wearing her new shoes. While I was working with her, I asked Hernan if we could just bandy clawing in west Hollywood. Little did I know that would change my life.
ALLISON: When did the Paw Project start? Where has the Paw Project had the greatest impact?
JENNIFER: The Paw Project became its own nonprofit in 2004. Its greatest impact has been in legislation. We have been behind all the successful legislation in North America. That includes nine American cities banning declawing and four Canadian provinces. More will follow.
ALLISON: Why has declawing been an option for vets and cat owners?
JENNIFER: People don’t realize declawing is an amputation. It is a surgery used to address a behavioral issue. That is inappropriate.
ALLISON: Besides declawing being an amputation, why else should owners be against the procedure?
JENNIFER: Declawing causes life-long changes for cats. Their paws are different so they walk differently. Many people can’t spot the change. The cats often have back pain, in addition to paw pain, for the rest of their lives.
Many people, including animal lovers, do not realize that declawing is a surgical procedure in which the animal’s toes are amputated at the last joint. A portion of the bone, not just the nail, is removed. Declawing may result in permanent lameness, arthritis, and other long-term complications.
In a misguided attempt to keep big cats such as lions and tigers, as pets, their owners have the animals declawed as cubs, believing that they will be protected against injury. Later, when the cats prove to be poor pets, weighing hundreds of pounds and eating 20 pounds of meat a day, they are often neglected, confiscated by animal regulatory officials, or abandoned. They often end up in animal compounds or sanctuaries.–The Paw Project
ALLISON: Tell me more about The Paw Project documentary?
JENNIFER: The documentary started when we were filming the big cats before and after surgery to assess their progress. Then we started filming the crusade to end declawing. 2013 was its release date.
ALLISON: Where can owners find it?
JENNIFER: YouTube, Amazon, streaming, DVD
ALLISON: Why was it created?
JENNIFER: To show others what we were seeing. Declawing is not benign. It is cruel and people should know that.
ALLISON: Why should owners support the Paw Project?
JENNIFER: We are the only organization dedicated solely to ending declawing that has made legislation happen. If people believe in ending declawing, then they should join us.
ALLISON: How can pet owners support the Paw Project?
JENNIFER: Educating others helps the most. If we can change the cultural norm so that declawing it’s not a regular practice nor an acceptable practice, we will save a lot of cats from having a lot of pain.