Ending Declawing in North America: Past, Present, and Future

Room: Montreal 6-7

Dr. Alice Crook, Coordinator, Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island
Dr. Hugh Chisholm, Atlantic Canada Director, Paw Project
Dr. Jennifer Conrad, Director and Founder, Paw Project
Dr. Odette Girard, Veterinarian, Clinique Vétérinaire de la Promenade and Former Board Member of the Quebec Association of Veterinary Surgeons in Small Animal Practice (AMVQ)

This interactive lecture followed by Q&A period will examine the current state of the practice of declawing in Canada and the US, including some of the key issues, trends and challenges associated with professional and public education. The session will conclude by looking at future possibilities for continuing education for the veterinary profession and the public. We will offer tools and scripts for motivating veterinary teams to stop offering "partial digital amputation" (as the CVMA describes declawing) and offer suggestions for using the right words and arguments to convince clients and veterinary teams that declawing is not the best solution.


  1. What is declawing, and what are the known physical and behavioural complications of the procedure, including how to recognize subtle, and less subtle, signs of pain in the short and long term?
  2. What is the current position of the CVMA, AVMA and other veterinary organizations on declawing (partial digital amputation)?
  3. Why declawing does not prevent or reduce abandonment, relinquishment and euthanasia, and how humane organizations are leading grass-roots efforts to discourage and end declawing.
  4. What does the current literature state about short-term and long-term effects of declawing?
  5. Recent decisions in Canada (i.e., by the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association, the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, the Newfoundland and Labrador Veterinary Medical Association, the PEI Veterinary Medical Association and VCA Canada) to stop declawing for ethical reasons, and the progress of legislative and other efforts in the US to end declawing.
  6. How declawing has been shown, in recent studies, to cause behavioural problems in cats, and why human medical authorities say declawing is not an effective means of protecting human health.
  7. What are the reasons motivating veterinary teams to offer this procedure now, and what can be done to motivate teams to stop practicing it and client to stop requesting it?

Following graduation in 1982 from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph, Dr. Alice Crook worked in small animal practice and then as an anesthetist at OVC, followed by the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) at the University of Prince Edward Island. Since 1995, Dr. Crook’s main focus has been animal welfare through her position as Coordinator of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at AVC. She is the immediate past-president of the Board of the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada. She has been affiliated with the Animal Welfare Committee of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) since the mid-nineties, including three years as Chair of the Committee. Her particular interests are pain management in companion and farm animals, animal cruelty legislation, feral cat welfare and effective veterinary response to animal abuse. Dr. Crook wrote a bi-monthly column for many years on issues of animal health and welfare in the Canadian magazine Chatelaine. She has won several awards for her work to improve the welfare of animals, including the 2002 CVMA Humane Award, a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003, the 2004 Frederic A. McGrand Award for Lifetime Leadership in Animal Welfare from Humane Canada, the 2009 CVMA President’s Award, the 2013 PEI VMA Leadership Award and a 2018 World Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Award.


Dr Hugh Chisholm, retired veterinarian, founded the first feline practice in Atlantic Canada in 1987. During his 24 years in feline practice he faced many situations where cat owners demanded that their cats be declawed. His practice became the first no-declaw hospital in Nova Scotia in1995. After retirement Dr Chisholm has focused his energy on lobbying for improved animal welfare at all levels of government. He is currently the President of the Tuxedo Party of Canada Cat Welfare Society, Chair of the Halifax Domestic and Feral Cat Committee, Vice President of Spay Day Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada Director for The Paw Project. He has also been a member of Nova Scotia Dept. of Agriculture’s Companion Animal Advisory Committee since it was formed in 2015.


Dr. Jennifer Conrad
has cared for wildlife on six continents for over two decades. She is an impassioned advocate for animal welfare, who has seen first-hand suffering and exploitation of animals, destruction of habitat and gratuitous hunting – all of which threaten the welfare and very survival of many species. Dr. Conrad has participated in many programs to protect and improve the lives of wild animals. She has traveled to Namibia to de-horn rhinos, making them unattractive targets for slaughter by poachers who prize the horns for ornamental uses. While in Africa, she worked with the Cheetah Conservation Fund, collecting information to help fortify the dwindling numbers of this species. In Nepal, Dr. Conrad treated endangered Asian elephants, and in the Galapagos Islands, she joined government scientists treating a threatened population of sea lions.

Dr. Conrad is a graduate of the University of California – Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is a member of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV), and the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians (EAZWV). Currently, Dr. Conrad's professional responsibilities are divided between working with nonprofit wildlife sanctuaries for unwanted and abused animals in southern California and administering her own company, Vet to the (Real) Stars, which provides humane veterinary care to animals appearing in television and movies.

In her former role as head veterinarian at a wildlife sanctuary, Dr. Conrad founded the Paw Project, which rehabilitates big cats, such as lions, tigers, cougars and jaguars maimed by declawing. Actually an amputation of the last bone in the cat's toe, declawing often cripples these magnificent creatures, both from the pain caused by the bone fragments left behind, and from the progressively debilitating arthritis produced by abnormal stress on other joints as the cats try to avoid walking on their painful, amputated toes.


A graduate of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Montreal in 1986, Dr. Odette Girard is the founder and sole owner of the Clinique vétérinaire de la Promenade inc., located in Ahuntsic, a friendly neighbourhood in Montreal.

Over the years, she has been a clinician in mixed practice in the Magdalen Islands, a volunteer in Nepal on an embryo transfer project, and practicing small animals medicine and surgery, which has been the major part of her professional life.

From 2006 to 2013, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Quebec Association of Veterinarians in Small Animal Practice (AMVQ) and Chair of its Economic Committee. She also served on the Economic Committee of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

As part of her duties on the AMVQ Economic Committee, she organized several veterinary management conferences including the AMVQ annual seminar. Dr. Girard has renamed the seminar "A Practical Guide to Veterinary Team Life" to better illustrate what constitutes the management of a veterinary facility. The AMVQ Economic Committee is also responsible for producing and dispensing an annual Suggested Price List.

From November 2014 to November 2015, she represented Quebec on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association, while maintaining her position on its Economic Committee.

Dr. Girard is always ready to speak in defence of veterinary teams and their quality of life. She is a fervent defender of the tariff guide and the fair remuneration of veterinary teams.

The Clinique vétérinaire de la Promenade inc. stopped practicing the partial amputation of digits (APD) of cats on January 1, 2004, which made it a pioneer establishment in Quebec. In recent years, more and more veterinary establishments are following suit.

Dr. Girard is a native of Saint-Hyacinthe.

She is the mother of three boys, Jérôme, Arthur and Léonard, and mother-in-law of two girls, Adrienne and Adèle, aged 19 to 26 years. The family lives with two Barbets, Manny and Livia, a 10-year-old cat Sophie and a 5-year-old cat James Wilson that lost its tail in an accident.