In 2009, the California Veterinary Medical Association sponsored SB 762 which was signed by the Governor in July and takes effect January 1, 2010. This law makes it illegal for a local jurisdiction “to prohibit a healing arts licensee from engaging in any act or performing any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that licensee.” The bill received strong bi-partisan support from both the Assembly and Senate. This new law is under attack from several city councils in California. Taking SB 762 as an affront to their power, city councils in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Santa Monica have passed or are in the process of passing ordinances that are in direct conflict with the California Veterinary Medicine Practice Act and the imminent state law. The January 1, 2010 effective date is motivating advocates to push their agenda of banning cat declawing through local channels without the benefit of fair discussion or an educational discourse on the issue. By doing so, they have shown a clear example of why SB 762 was a sound and important decision by the state legislature.
SB 762 was passed to ensure that approved medical procedures performed by all licensed health care practitioners, including physicians, dentists, and veterinarians, are consistent throughout the state of California. The scenario that is resulting from the recent cat declaw bans is a perfect example of why the bill was passed – a hopscotch of cities deciding what veterinary procedures can be performed in their city and a resulting confusion among the public and practitioners on what is and isn’t legal and enforceable. In addition, these decisions are being made by city councils, composed of members who, in most cases, do not have a medical professional background, and do not fully understand the science behind many procedures or the veterinarian/client/patient relationship. Imagine if city councils started telling humans that they couldn’t have legal medical procedures!
Veterinarians must be allowed to make qualified medical decisions in consultation with their clients and upon a proper exam and understanding of the pet’s home environment. This is the only way to provide the best course of treatment and assist the owner in making the best decision for their family pet. That may include removing a cat’s claws in a humane manner with proper pain management to prevent that animal from being abandoned at a shelter, tossed out on the street or euthanized. Several cities have now criminalized appropriate medical treatment; an action that will end with the enactment of SB 762.