The CVMA contends the ordinance — Municipal Code Chapter 9.49, first adopted by the West Hollywood City Council on April 21, 2003 — is in direct conflict with and preempted by the California Veterinary Practice Act and the Business and Professions Code, which invalidates the West Hollywood measure.
“Just like medical doctors, veterinarians in California are highly regulated by the State of California,” says Dr. Jon Klingborg, president of the CVMA. “We simply cannot have local city councils approving laws that conflict with state law. This restricts pet owners from seeking the best possible treatment and prevents us from practicing veterinary medicine as well.”
Last December, the California Department of Consumer Affairs issued a legal opinion declaring that state law supersedes local law, and the practice of veterinary medicine is governed “solely” by the Veterinary Practice Act and the state Veterinary Medical Board.
Additionally, the legal opinion affirmed that Section 460 of the state’s Business and Professions Code “expressly preempts the City of West Hollywood’s declawing ordinance.”
In recent months, the City of West Hollywood has attempted to assume more of the state’s regulatory responsibilities. It passed one ordinance that restricts the rights of veterinarians who practice within the city boundaries and has proposed another. As a membership organization with members in Los Angeles County and the City of West Hollywood, the California Veterinary Medical Association has an obligation to protect the right of all California veterinarians to practice veterinary medicine as regulated by the California Veterinary Practice Act.
“The practice of veterinary medicine should be left to veterinarians with the best interests of the patient and animal owners in mind,” says Dr. Klingborg. “When legislation becomes necessary for such issues as declawing or ear cropping, there is no doubt it should be conducted by the California State Legislature within the confines of the Veterinary Practice Act.”
The CVMA believes the court will declare the City of West Hollywood’s ordinance banning animal declawing as unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable. The CVMA has also asked the court to declare the city’s February 7 proposal to ban such other “non-therapeutic procedures” as tail docking and ear cropping as equally unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.
Should the court conclude that West Hollywood’s Municipal Code Chapter 9.49 and its provisions are preempted, the CVMA has requested an order commanding the city to rescind the provisions.
“It is unfortunate that the CVMA is forced to pursue this issue through legal action,” says Dr. Klingborg. “But clearly the West Hollywood City Council stands in direct opposition to the rights of veterinarians to practice medicine in the best interest of their patients and clients.”