Two people are facing charges after a botched declawing operation last October left a kitten in pain and vomiting a green substance for two weeks before he finally died, according to Miami-Dade police.
Prosecutors said 54-year-old Carmen Piedrahita, the kitten's owner, turned herself in to police. She and 72-year-old Geronimo Gonzalez are charged with felony animal cruelty.
According to an arrest report, Piedrahita turned to Gonzalez, who, along with another man, attempted to declaw her kitten, Toby, at her home located in the 16000 block of Southwest 102nd Street in Miami-Dade last October.
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Police said the procedure resulted in extreme pain and suffering to the kitten, who immediately fell ill. Toby suffered from dehydration and was vomiting a green substance. The exposed bones on his front paws became swollen and infected.
Toby suffered for 15 to 17 days before Piedrahita finally took him to the Animal Welfare Society of South Florida on Oct. 9.
Medical staff noted that Toby appeared to be severely depressed and dehydrated, and in a great deal of pain. The kitten died a day after he was admitted, likely due to inflammation of the infected bones.
Piedrahita's lawyer, Christian Dunham, said his client thought Gonzalez was a veterinarian. Miami-Dade police, however, said Piedrahita knew Gonzalez wasn't licensed.
Gonzalez, who has hired an attorney, pleaded not guilty Wednesday and said he only assisted with the operation. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 20.
Gonzalez' attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
The declawing of cats is legal when performed by a licensed veterinarian, but is discouraged by many veterinarians and animal-rights activists.
The national website for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists the group's official position on declawing. As a whole, the organization says it is "strongly opposed to declawing cats for the convenience of their guardians," and that the procedure is condoned only in cases where the health and safety of the guardian could be put at risk, such as individuals with compromised immune systems.
The American Veterinary Medical Association alleges the declawing procedure should be considered "only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s)."
Both groups emphasize that scratching is normal feline behavior, and recommend that guardians provide suitable scratching instruments — such as scratch posts — for domestic cats, in addition to regular trimming and claw care.