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Video: Jennifer Conrad's declawing documentary has cat docs howling

This week's cover story, "The Cruelest Cut," traces the evolution of the documentary The Paw Project, the story of Jennifer Conrad's decade-long campaign to ban the declawing of cats -- a common procedure in America but one that many veterinarians and animal rights activists regard as an unnecessary and obsolete surgery, fraught with complications and ethical issues. A screening of the movie at Denver's Sie Center on September 25 kicks off a grass-roots campaign to ban declawing in Colorado.

See also: The debate over cat declawing sharpens

Conrad's film began as a study of her efforts as an exotic-animal vet to repair the damaged paws of declawed lions and tigers that used to work in circuses and magic acts. But it soon morphed into an inquiry about why Americans routinely declaw house cats -- around 22 million cats, about 25 percent of the total U.S. feline population, have gone through the surgery -- when studies indicate that the surgery can produce much worse behavior problems than scratching the furniture (which, as the film takes pains to point out, can be addressed in less drastic ways).

The answer, Conrad suggests, has something to do with the American veterinary establishment, the booming pet industry, and pet owners who don't realize that declawing is actually a significant orthopedic procedure that involves removing part of the toe bone. As this trailer suggests, the film is both emotional and gritty.

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A New York premiere and national release of The Paw Project will follow the Denver preview on the 25th. For now, here's a sneak peek:

More from our Follow That Story archive circa June 2010: "Feral cat problem: An update about fixing it."

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