Effect of a provincial feline onychectomy ban on cat intake and euthanasia in a British Columbia animal shelter system

Alexandre Ellis, Karen van Haaften, Alexandra Protopopova, Emilia Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine whether there was an increase in cat relinquishment for destructive scratching behavior, a change in overall feline surrender intake and euthanasia, or a change in average length of stay in a British Columbia shelter system after provincial legislation banning elective onychectomy. Methods: Records of cats admitted to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the 36 months prior to (1 May 2015–30 April 2018, n = 41,157) and after (1 May 2018–30 April 2021, n = 33,430) the provincial ban on elective onychectomy were reviewed. Total intake numbers, euthanasia and length of stay were descriptively compared between periods. Proportions of cats and kittens surrendered for destructive scratching, as well as the proportion of cats and kittens surrendered with an owner request for euthanasia, were compared using two-sample z-tests of proportions. Results: Destructive behavior was found to be an uncommon reason for surrender (0.18% of surrendered cats) during the study period. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of cats surrendered for destructive scratching behavior (z = −1.89, P >0.05) after the provincial ban on elective onychectomy. On the contrary, the proportion of owner-requested euthanasias decreased after the ban (z = 3.90, P <0.001). The total number of cats surrendered, the shelter live release rate and average length of stay all remained stable or improved following the ban, though causation could not be determined. Conclusions and relevance: The findings in this study suggest that legislation banning elective onychectomy does not increase the risk of feline shelter relinquishment – for destructive behavior or overall – and is unlikely to have a significant effect on shelter euthanasia or length of stay.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-744
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Onychectomy
  • declaw
  • destructive behavior
  • euthanasia
  • length of stay
  • relinquishment
  • shelter
  • surrender, intake
  • welfare


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