Senate to consider bill prompted by declaw ban

Measure protects medical procedures from local meddling, CVMA says

August 18, 2008 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Sacramento, Calif.— California Senators are considering today a bill designed to protect medical professions by closing a state code loophole that allows local ordinances to ban medical procedures considered lawful by the state.

AB 2427, backed by the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), is the latest action in a five-year battle between organized veterinary medicine and West Hollywood, which criminalized non-therapeutic declaw procedures via a citywide ordinance in 2003.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Eng, grandfathers local ordinances like West Hollywood’s declaw ban but seeks to stop the continued erosion of medical procedures. West Hollywood officials deem declaws cruel and have long promised that ear cropping and tail docking are next on the city’s agenda. In plain language, the bill makes it unlawful for a city or county to bar a “healing arts licensee” from performing any act that falls within the recognized scope of his or her practice.

That covers all medical professions, including those in the human-health arena, some of which have signed on in support of the bill’s passage. CVMA argues that despite the controversial nature of certain procedures, it should not be up to local governments to place restrictions on regulated professions. Allowing such a trend to continue leaves all veterinary- and human-health electives vulnerable to a municipality’s impulse to ban, CVMA Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker says.

“We just want to make sure they can’t decide what we do in medical practice,” she says.

West Hollywood officials could not be reached by press time, but in previous interviews, stated the municipality would lobby against such a measure. The city, which encompasses three veterinary medical practices, has the authority to investigate, cite and fine veterinarians who are caught performing feline onchyectomies for non-therapeutic reasons.

That authority was cemented last fall when state Supreme Court justices declined to consider CVMA’s challenge of the ordinance’s legality. The decision strengthened a previous appeals court ruling that upheld the 2003 edict by validating a municipality’s right to ban veterinary medical procedures and reversed a trial court judgment favoring CVMA’s stance. 

“We have narrowed this bill down so there can be no question of our intent,” Fenstermaker says. “We want to be able to protect veterinary medicine in this state.” 

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