The Paw Project: Film Review
Jennifer Conrad's activist documentary makes a passionate argument for the banning of cat declawing.
Veterinarian Jennifer Conrad is both the director and heroine of her impassioned documentary strongly making the case against the declawing of cats. Named for the organization she founded to promote the banning of this all too common practice—some 25% of domesticated cats in the United States have undergone the procedure—The Paw Project is an eye-opening film that will be of interest to the millions of cat owners pondering whether or not to have their pets undergo similar treatment.
The film begins in dramatic fashion, with heartbreaking footage of cats both large and small, including mountain lions and lions, attempting to walk while being virtually crippled. As one of the many onscreen figures testifying to the inhumanity of the practice attests, “It’s an amputation.” It’s also a major revenue generator for veterinarians, who routinely charge $1,200 and up for the operation.
The film includes testimony from several vets vehemently opposed to the practice, with one commentating that those who questioned its morality during their medical training were branded as “animal communists.” According to many of those interviewed, the procedure, which involves the amputation of vital bones, is not only physically but emotionally harmful, leading to problems including aggressive behavior.
The film largely focuses on the organization’s efforts to have declawing banned in California despite the strong opposition of the CVMA (California Veterinary Medical Association). West Hollywood was the first community in the state to pass a ban, leading to a lengthy legal battle. Eventually, the practice was banned in eight cities throughout the state, as it is in numerous countries around the world.
The film, not surprisingly, is aggressively one-sided, and often stacks the deck by including footage of adorable kittens and photographs of celebrities including Marlon Brando and Paul McCartney with their pet cats. But it makes its case in passionate and ultimately convincing fashion and also provides useful information about such alternatives as the use of “soft paws,” vinyl sheaths that cover a cat’s claws, which may well lead cat owners to reconsider their position.
Opens Sept. 27 (The Paw Project)
Director/screenwriter: Jennifer Conrad
Producer: The Paw Project, Jennifer Conrad
Executive producer: Audrey Steele Burnand
Editor: Allan Holzman
Composer: Bobby Tahouri
Not rated, 58 min.