An Eye-Opening Portrait of the Fight to Ban Declawing Cats in The Paw Project


Any documentary as unabashedly one-sided and geeked-out on science and city council hearings as The Paw Project is at risk of being tedious or unpersuasive. But the story of veterinarian Jennifer Conrad’s crusade to outlaw declawing of cats is eye-opening and sometimes charming. A cold open on the controversy segues to a slow intro of its hero, who wrote and directed; some initial awkwardness is, thankfully, fleeting. Conrad and another vet devise a surgical repair for declawed lions and other big cats that are disfigured, crippled, arthritic, and in pain. The project proves overwhelming, though, and doesn’t even include the millions of domestic cats suffering the same way. Conrad and a retinue of vets, cat owners, and other experts go for prevention by lobbying at city halls throughout California in hopes of banning the practice. But what would seem like a slam-dunk case is not, thanks to the entrenched interests of veterinary associations, depressingly akin to humans’ fights with our own healthcare powers that be. Editor Allan Holzman skillfully weaves arguments and images, which include droll moments as well as heartbreaking truths, and gives the political drama a cinematic flow. A declawed cat, says charismatic behavior expert Jackson Galaxy, is “not as apt to play; they’re not as much a cat.” Even a dog person can understand how wrong that is.