It's definately a tough subject to discuss easily. And there have been too many [IMO] cases where the surgery did indeed have a negative effect on the animal, for a myriad of reasons. Just as is the case with human doctors, there are also veterinarians who will cut corners [pun intended].
As strange, and even unbelievable as it may seem, I used to be almost totally against declawing, for the most part I still am of the mind set that it's rarely necessary and that I would personally avoid having it done at all reasonable costs to any of my cats.
I could argue against declawing with the best of y'all, and infact on another group I'm a member of, I did. Only I took on a veterinarian, and he upped the ante.
He gave me a blanket invite to come visit him at his clinic someday, and let him give me an informal/formal lesson on what is really involved in declawing. After a lot more discussion, I took him up on his offer, when he had a few cats scheduled for declawing. In a nutshell, he showed me what I now believe all vets should do, and as a result I have since changed my vet to this man.
He didn't push declawing as the only choice, nor as even the best option for clawing problems. He was able to debunk quite a few common misconceptions that I had about the procedure [mainly the ones that you mentioned previously]. He was able to demonstrate [without actually harming a kitty that is] how many veterinarians have become accustomed to declawing a cat....liberal application of a set of nail clippers....*shudder*. He explained that it CAN be done with them, but the skill required to use such an inappropriate tool for the job, well lets just say not many vets possess such skill. He talked about only cutting tendons, and why that is generally a very flawed concept (as I have briefly mentioned before). And then he showed me how simple a procedure it can be, and how little a cat has to "suffer" from the procedure. He uses a scalpel, and carefully traces the gap between the claw and the middle segment, he is very meticulous about making sure he removes only the absolute minimum of tissue, but that he still removes any trace of the last segment. That day he did three cats, he went through about 7 scalpel blades. The amount of blood lost from all cats combined, wouldn't even fully color one tip of a q-tip. The cats were up an moving within about 12 hours, and walking around within 16. They were a bit wobbly, but all three of them had eaten, drank, resumed other normal bodily functions, and managed to remove their bandages within 24 hours. They were wandering around the clinic playing with each other, and the toys without any problems. One wandered over to me, and I asked if I could pick him up and look at his paws without hurting him, and the vet just laughed and said give it a shot...afterall, the vet was only a few feet away. The kitten let me look at his paws without any indication of discomfort, they were not obviously swollen, and it was almost impossible to tell that they had been declawed no more than 36 hours prior. I spent the next three days around these kittys, and not once did I ever see or hear any signs of discomfort or disability.
I've since gotten to know the vet much better, and have had the chance to watch/assist with quite a few different procedures, amongst them a good dozen or more declaws [different species of cat, but mostly domestic]. Not once did I see any evidence of negative side effects to these animals. They pretty much all followed the above model.
To this day, I still wish I had a video camera to record this procedure, and to hopefully offer contrasting evidence to debunk some of the misunderstandings.
He has about 30+ domestics, many of which he rescued from clients or as strays, the ones he has indoors are all declawed[except a special case kitty]. They are various ages, anywhere from 3yrs to 15 yrs old, none have any problems related to them being declawed. They all are very playful, very hapy and agile cats. None of them exhibit any of the commonly stated negatives of declawing either. Either it's a statistical anomaly, or there's something to be said about a 'properly' done procedure.
As I suppose is obvious by now , this experience really changed my perspective on the procedure. I still wouldn't have it done to my cats without an absolute necessity, however, I can no longer side with the argument that Declawing is universally cruel on the grounds that it causes long term pain and suffering and disability. I would also still rather see people explore the wide variety of alternatives out there. Yet, at the same time, if an owner has tried alternatives, and just is not having any luck with correcting the behavior, if this procedure makes it so the cat can stay in an otherwise loving home, then I just can't say that declawing should not be an option.
I know there are cases where a declaw was botched, or an animal butchered by a vet cutting corners. But I also know from experience, that there is really no excuse for that to happen with a procedure that is so straight forward as declawing. Neutering/Spaying are more complex surgeries, but S/N surgeries are performed daily without near the amount of associated horror stories.
I can agree with the majority opinion that declawing is broadly unnecessary, because that is also my opinion. What I don't agree with is the statments that declawing is unquestionably cruel, and guaranteed to cause a life of pain and suffering, because this just isn't the truth.
There's a lot of misunderstanding surrounding this procedure, and just as much misinformation. I was offered an experience that few people will ever get, which is one of the reasons I wish I could share it with everyone. Not necessarily to change their opinion on declawing, but just to give everyone a different perspective on what I mean when I say 'proper declaw'.
[Starting to ramble here]
Hissy, it seems like your opinion on some aspects of declawing have undergone revision, what have you seen working with your friend who rescues the declawed cats?
SpotzPS You're welcome Hissy