In humans, fingernails grow from the skin, but in animals that hunt prey, the claws grow from bone. Declawing is not merely the removal of the claws, as the term "declawing" implies, it is the amputation of the bone that contains the claw.

To declaw a tiger the veterinarian, or the owner or exhibitor for that matter, cuts off the last knuckles of a cat's paw. They cut through bone, tendons, skin and nerves which also disables the normal function and movement of the paw.

In a human, it is the equivalent of amputating the last joint of each finger and toe.

Declawing is a crippling procedure usually done without anesthetic. It is extremely painful and carries with it the associated risk of infection, arthritis, constant pain and permanent lameness as the tiger ages. The tigers are deprived of their normal instinctual behavior to use their claws to climb, exercise, and mark territory with the scent glands in their paws. Most tigers and other big cats used for performance are declawed, and many are also defanged.

There is a growing movement among veterinarians, the AZA and the animal welfare organizations to end the practice of declawing cats. This was pioneered by Dr. Jennifer Conrad, who founded The PAW Project.

To read more about Dr. Conrad and her work go to The Paw Project.