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Bill would ban declawing of cats as cruel and inhumane

CITY HALL – A certified animal lover, Christine Ingrassia keeps her own cat, two foster cats, and a dog.

In the past, she’s had cats declawed. But no more. And as the 6th Ward alderwoman, she’s doing her part to bring the practice to an end.

On Friday, she introduced legislation that would prohibit the procedure except in limited medical circumstances. It’s part of a bill that would update animal welfare guidelines in the city.

“As we progress through time, we learn things that we didn’t know before,” Ingrassia said. “Most veterinarians and advocacy animal groups think this is the right thing, and the research backs it up, and I think it’s important to have a conversation here at the board about it.”

A summary sheet for the city Health Department included with the bill notes that the American Veterinary Medical Association considers declawing cats to be cruel and inhumane treatment.

New York State and municipalities including Denver have established regulations prohibiting this practice except in extreme circumstances.

The city Health Department supports the bill, Ingrassia said. 

The bill would also prohibit pet owners from keeping their dogs or cats outside when it is colder than 32 degrees or hotter than 93 degrees. People could not leave their dogs and cats outside for more than 30 minutes without adequate food, water or shelter. 

Also, the bill would open the possibility of combined private dog parks-restaurant bars with variances.

Among the places around the country that have tried this are Bar K, situated on the Missouri River in Berkley Riverfront Park. It features a modern bar, restaurant and coffeehouse made from repurposed shipping containers, and a two-acre dog park.   

By adding a definition of “domesticated cat,” the bill makes it clear what a person’s responsibilities are toward their cats, not feral cats.

Ingrassia said she and 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar, a cosponsor of the bill, became aware of some of the problems. Animal welfare organizations made Ingrassia aware of issues including what may happen with declawing.

“It really depends on the cat,” Ingrassia said. “The surgery is really intrusive and can be very painful.”

“It can create a number of behavioral issues,” she explained. “Most people get their cats declawed because they’re trying to prevent them from scratching. There are a number of ways to make sure that cats don’t scratch.” 

The bill states that declawing is considered medically necessary if it’s needed to treat or relieve illness, infection, disease, or injury, or to fix an abnormality present from birth that may cause the cat physical harm or pain. The procedure also may be considered medically necessary to prevent the transfer of a disease from a cat to a human.

A licensed veterinarian must do the operation with anesthesia.

Declawing is not considered medically necessary for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or for convenience in keeping or handling a cat.

Ingrassia said she hoped the Board of Health and Human Services would hold a hearing on the bill when it meets at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, in the Kennedy Room of City Hall.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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