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Declawing Tigers and Lions

Updated on July 29, 2018

The declawing of Tigers and Lions is and never has been an operation that has ever needed to be done. It cruel and unnecessary. It always has been and it always will be. The only time a claw should have to be removed is if it was damaged in some way and may actually injure the cat. Perhaps too if the cat was self mutilating, but even then claw clipping would be a preferable short term solution.

The decawing of domestic cats is illegal in much of the world and quite sensibly and humanely so. If a person is worried about their furniture then they should forego the idea of having a pet at all.

In my article on Craig Busch and Zion Wildlife Gardens I stated "Declawing is as barbaric and inhumane as it is unnecessary! There can only be one instance where such a procedure should be considered and that is if the animal was self-mutilating. Even then it would be after all other options had been explored, and explored twice over. Euthanasia would be a kinder and more considerate option than declawing. This in as much as euthanasia does not hurt and is quickly over but declawing is painful and lasts a lifetime". I stand by this.

Since I wrote it there has been numerous comments defending this particular series of declawings and/or trying to shift the blame. I continue to get these. As these comments are based on lack of information, misinformation and turning a blind eye to fact along with the failure to read the official investigation into the declawing I believed it necessary in the furtherance of knowledge to clarify the situation on big cat declawing.

I started work with big and small cats in the UK in the 1960s. None of the lions, tigers, pumas, cheetahs, leopards, caracals or leopard cats I worked with at the time were declawed. I had friends and colleagues working in several other UK zoos. None of these had or worked with declawed big cats. In the 1970s I worked in and with zoos in the Middle East. There were no declawed big cats there either. What's more the subject of declawing never arose. Such a barbaric practise was never contemplated. To state that declawing was 'commonplace' in zoos till the 1990s is a lie. It wasn't common in the 1980s, the 1970s or the 1960s either.

Declawing did take place in some of the less reputable collections in the United States. These were places more concerned with commercial shows than with conservation.

To the best of my knowledge the only zoo in New Zealand which has ever carried out declawing is Zion Wildlife Gardens. This was done on the instructions of Craig Busch who had been only used to working with declawed cats in the dicey Hollywood show collections in the USA. It is just possible that he actually believed that this was the right way to go about it. Only a tiny bit of research would have shown that this was not the case.

It has been stated time and again that the declawing in Zion was done on the instructions of MAF. This is incorrect. Vets do not tell zoos what to do with their animals. Furthermore it was never ever a legal requirement that Big Cats in New Zealand to have their claws removed if they were going to come into contact with the public (and why should it be necessary for anyone to ever have contact with them anyway?)

No humane or caring vet would advise you to declaw your domestic cat or dog or have its ears clipped or tail docked. Such procedures are carried out on the instructions of the owners. Happily most vets would not agree to any such operations. They would though if persuaded that it was common practise. Persuasion would be easy enough through force of personality and if contact was established with the vets to those less than reputable collections in the USA. Once the procedure had been carried out a couple of times in New Zealand it became 'commonplace' albeit in just one collection. (Vets, clever as they are do not know everything, read the document.)

Here I will move on to the MAF document which lists the reasons as to why big cats in Zion Wildlife Park were declawed. I strongly advise that the reader goes to and reads this document in its entirety before commenting on this article.

Lion Paw

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Photo by:

Please note that these are the reasons offered for declawing by the zoo NOT by MAF. The name may be blocked out but the identity is obvious.

  • protecting the trees in each enclosure.

Protecting the trees! Protecting the trees! I cannot imagine a zoo anywhere in the world offering this excuse. Zoos offer logs for cats to sharpen their claws in the same way as the owners of domestic cats give their pets scratching posts. Zoos, if necessary would use a protective fence around trees where needed. They would not declaw.

  • enhancing the animals' environment by permitting interaction with him.

Simply a case of permamently disabling an animal to pander to the vanity of a human being. Preventing the animal from grooming itself properly, from gripping its food correctly, from carrying out the natural functions with the tools given to it by nature. Far from enhancing the animals' environment it does exactly the opposite.

  • permitting interaction with the public in general on interactive tours.

These are wild animals, not pets, not toys. I cannot imagine any true animal lover agreeing to have an animal mutilated and disadvantaged for the rest of its life so that they could interact with it.

  • limiting the ability of the animals to do damage to each other in the enclosures.

I don't believe there is another zoo, anywhere in the world that does this. Using this logic then surely the teeth should have been removed as well. Zoos do not declaw animals in their prides and pairs.

  • limiting the ability of the animals to do damage to each other when traveling for promotional purposes.

Zoos transport animals to other zoos every day. Sensibly they are boxed separately for the purpose. If they are transported together they do not declaw them first. It doesn't happen because it is wrong.

None of the above are reasons for declawing. They are excuses!

Tiger Cub Paw

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Photo by:

The question should be asked:

Why was '.... ....h was quite careful to ensure the process did not become common knowledge kept confidential'.

Here we see that the official document states "The previous owner and operator ..... ..... who was responsible for initiating the declawing procedures at Zion Wildlife Gardens"

All declawing in Zion Wildlife Gardens has now ceased.

It has been stated time and again that Mr Busch has apologised for declawing the big cats of Zion. No-one is able to provide a copy of this statement or details of when and where it was made.

Jaguar Claws

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Submit a Comment
  • Cashbackshopper profile image


    8 years ago

    I totally agree with you who are we to decide? Its there world also.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    9 years ago from South East Asia

    You are right Melissa. No room for animal cruelty at all.

  • Melissa A Smith profile image

    Melissa A Smith 

    9 years ago from New York

    Just more confirmation that it shouldn't be done with genets, they depend on their claws even more, so it's sad that that's often done to them.

  • profile image

    Kelly Stevens 

    9 years ago

    Horrible thing to declaw tigers, they belong in the wild.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    9 years ago from South East Asia

    Thank you sdavies - It is sad that it still goes on.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    De clawing is abhorrent and inexcusable cruelty. It takes a special sort of ignorance and lack of empathy and/or knowledge for anyone to sanction such a procedure. Anyone asking for this procedure to take place should most assuredly be questioned on their suitability for being in control of, or in charge of *any* animal. For someone to claim they are doing this for anything other than selfish ignorant gain is outrageous and outright lies. To claim someone "loves" an animal and do this is tantamount to a psychotic break from reality. How can someone supposedly so in tune with animals in their trust be so clueless as to the terrible nature of this procedure? A cats claws are its identity, they are born with them for a reason, even us lowly domestic cat owners know this. I hope the vets involved lose sleep over this at least and anyone else involved stops and thinks long and hard before ordering any further unnecessary surgical procedures on animals that will not benefit and in fact will likely suffer in both the short and long term and be put at risk from pointless anaesthesia.

    Thanks again for the hub Peter, the more people know about this outrageous surgical procedure the better.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    9 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello, - Thank you. Man can be so very cruel sometimes and for the stupidest of reasons.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    9 years ago from London, UK

    This is an excellent hub, as always, and an ey opener. Those poor animals. Bad enough not being in their proper surroundings.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    9 years ago from South East Asia

    vocalcoach - thank you for reading. Happily the practice is much less common than it was. The sooner it stops everywhere the better.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    It absolutely breaks my heart to know that declawing these beautiful and defenseless cats is going on. How my blood starts to boil when I hear something like this. Is there no compassion for animals? An excellent hub, Peter. I look forward to reading more by you. Count me in as a huge fan! Blessings to you.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    9 years ago from South East Asia

    nettraveller - thank you for the comment. I don't doubt that there are vets who are out to make a buck by suggesting this horrendous procedure. There is some slime in every pond.

    I also agree that some cats can go for years without ever experiencing a problem. Heavier cats like lions and tigers are more likely too however.

    In a zoo situation I cannot imagine a vet ever saying the operation was essential though. But then there is likely to some out there for extra cash.

  • nettraveller profile image


    9 years ago from USA

    I agree that neither domestic cats nor wild ones should be declawed. One of our cats was given to us already declawed. He has always been a happy cat, now he has arthritis, but he is 17 years old. He has always gotten along very well with our other cat, who is not declawed. I had another cat before these two, and had arranged a home vet visit. This vet did suggest that she be declawed, and mentioned how it's good to do it when cats are young. I had not even complained about anything, he initiated that subject. I did not make any more appointments with this particular vet, but if it happened to me, it probably happens to others as well. Ironically, some of the Google ads on this hub are for declawing. I realize you had nothing to do with that, and that you don't control what ads are put on your hubs. Thank you for speaking out on the subject.


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