SUBJECTS — Civics and Government; U.S./Politics & California;



AGE: 13+; MPAA Rating — Not rated; TWM believes it would be rated as PG-13;

Documentary; 2013, 58 minutes; Color. Available from The Paw Project Movie, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Netflix and others.

Note to Teachers (click to expand)

The vast majority of students will not be active in politics as adults. Many will feel that they are too insignificant or powerless to make a difference. However, at some time in their lives an issue may become important to them. It is therefore helpful for students to know that a few committed people can bring about change in both public opinion and the law.

The emotional driver for this lesson is an engaging film which shows citizens securing the passage of municipal ordinances to ban the declawing of cats in major cities across California. While not shown in the movie, these individuals have also influenced the passage of three state laws that limit declawing and the adoption of a federal policy prohibiting the declawing of wild and exotic cats. They continue to work to ban all declawing, but due to opposition by powerful national and state veterinary associations, they have not yet reached their goal.

In the vast majority of U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions veterinarians can still make money declawing cats, a brutal procedure which involves the amputation of the last set of bones in each paw. The operation leaves animals disabled for life and subject to painful chronic infections in their feet. For many declawed cats, every step is a painful ordeal.

This film is The Paw Project’s educational and advocacy effort before the next round of legislative and regulatory battles. Thus, students who watch the movie will be in the interesting position of both studying and being the subject of The Paw Project’s outreach and education efforts. They will experience a creative new way (the film itself) by which citizens are challenging strong and entrenched professional organizations.

Because the issue is narrow and relatively simple, the legislative, regulatory and other documents relating to the controversy are within the ability of many high school students to read. They also happen to be relatively short and well-written. The emotion generated by the film will cause students to develop passionate opinions about the dispute, offering a unique opportunity for a motivated reading of documents generated by representative government.

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TWM offers a worksheet for students to review before seeing the film and then to fill out after they have watched the movie. While not required for the lesson plan, teachers may want to review it. See Film Study Worksheet for a Documentary Seeking to Persuade the Viewer On a Matter of Political or Social Significance.


Dr. Jennifer Conrad is a young veterinarian practicing in California focusing on large exotic cats, many of whom are used in the film industry. She notices that cats, both exotic and domestic, are crippled by declawing. She helps develop a surgical procedure to repair some of the injury suffered by the big cats in her care. However, she soon realizes that 25% of the domestic cats in the U.S. are declawed and that surgery is much too expensive and time consuming to help all of them. She is joined by a few committed volunteers and they organize The Paw Project to campaign against declawing. Their first victory is getting the procedure banned in the City of West Hollywood. The citizen volunteers are surprised when lobbyists of the professional veterinary associations appear and oppose the ban. Apparently, the associations are protecting the interests of veterinarians who make money from the procedure. Through a series of legislative battles, Dr. Conrad and the volunteers of The Paw Project manage to get declawing banned in eight cities in California, including the major population centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Selected Awards:

The Paw Project has been an official selection in the following film festivals: Binational Independent Film Festival, Northwest VEG “Films To Change The World” Series, Cinema Verde Film Festival – Winner of Education Award, Tampa VegFest Film Festival, Long Beach Kindness Film Festival, The West Coast Film Festival, 4th Annual Awareness Festival, Malibu Film Society, Denver Film Society.


Featured Actors:

Jennifer Conrad



Jennifer Conrad.


Students will be shown a vivid example of how a few passionate individuals can influence public policy and lawmaking. They will have an increased understanding of the legislative process, the legal status of local government, the difference between law and regulation, the police power, and the dual role of “professional associations” concerned with the financial interests of their members while at the same time being responsible for fostering high standards of practice. Students will understand the role of education, including the use of film, in driving social and political change. The emotional impact of the film will encourage students to give their best efforts to their assignments. The lesson will also lead students to understand that they have obligations to treat animals humanely. Not contained in this lesson plan and only touched upon in the movie are the related topics of lobbying elected officials, grassroots organizing, and the use of social media.




Watch the movie with your children. Then talk about whether declawing should be prohibited. For some of the arguments, pro and con, see Discussion Question #3.


A lion cub saved from declawing and
Dr. Conrad of the Paw Project

Introduction to the Movie

Note: Students watching the movie should already know or they should be provided with the following background information. The introduction set out below can be used as the basis for direct instruction or it can be printed as a handout and passed out to the class. Click here for a version of the introduction in word processing format that can be edited and supplemented by teachers and passed out to students.

Federal, State and Local Government in the U.S.

The Police Power: A government has an inherent power to regulate behavior and enforce order within its territory to enhance the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of its inhabitants. This is called the “police power”. It is much more than just having a police force. The police power includes the authority to regulate land use, provide for the public health, regulate businesses, protect children, educate children, etc. Animal protection legislation is passed pursuant to the police power of the government.

The Enumerated Powers of the Federal Government: The United States is a single nation and the Constitution divides the country’s governmental power between the federal and state governments. The federal government is a government of limited powers, being given only those powers set out in the Constitution. They are called the “enumerated powers”. These include the power to make war, to issue currency, to conduct diplomacy with foreign countries, and to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. See U.S. Constitution art. I, § 8. The enumerated powers do not include the general police power.

Reserved Powers: The Tenth Amendment provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Thus framers of the Constitution left the general police power to the states and denied it to the federal government. See, e.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 566 (1995).

The Long Reach of the Commerce Clause: Because the economies of the states within the U.S. are so intertwined and since we buy and sell so much in foreign trade, state regulation in many areas normally covered by the police power has proved ineffective. For example, protection of public health is a basic police power function, but state governments cannot effectively regulate prescription drugs that are usually manufactured in other states or countries. In addition, the ability to test these drugs and inspect the manufacturing plants requires a very high level of education and expertise. It would be very wasteful if there were 50 state health agencies developing the necessary expertise and sending inspectors to the plants where the drugs are made. It would be wasteful for each state to maintain laboratories where drugs are tested. The power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, given to the federal government in Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution, commonly referred to as “the Commerce clause”, has been called upon to justify the creation of the Food and Drug Administration, a federal agency that oversees and regulates the manufacture and distribution of prescription drugs.

In fact, the complexity of modern life and the great expansion of interstate and foreign trade has required that the federal government expand its role into areas of everyday life that are within the scope of the police power and which were previously the subject of state regulation. Prescription drugs are just one example, others include the trading of stocks and bonds, food sent across state lines (which includes most commodities from meat to fruit), workplace safety for firms in interstate or foreign commerce, communications, etc. Another example is federal regulation of food labeling because almost all packaged food is sold through interstate commerce. Often the businesses being regulated are at the forefront of those calling for federal regulation. They would prefer to have one regulator to deal with, rather than 50, and one set of rules to comply with, rather than 50.

Federal Preemption: When a federal law is passed pursuant to the enumerated powers granted to the federal government and applies to a certain type of activity, the federal law is said to have “occupied” the field and preempts state laws relating to the same subject. (This is based on the Supremacy Clause contained in Article Six, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution.) The same federal supremacy rule also applies to federal regulations. Valid federal regulations and policies within the scope of the powers given to the federal government by provisions of the Constitution, such as the Commerce Clause, take precedence not only over state regulations and policies but they also “preempt” laws passed by state legislatures.

Local Government is only an Instrumentality of the State: The U.S. constitution doesn’t mention cities, towns, or counties: constitutionally there are only the states and the federal government. (The only exception is Washington, D.C., which is given special status as the national capital.) Local government such as cities, towns, and counties are created and regulated by the states. Their role is to assist the states in providing government to the people. The powers and duties of local government vary from state to state depending upon the particular state’s constitution and laws. State governments generally have the complete right to create, regulate, and abolish local governmental entities through the process set out in the state constitutions. In other words, states establish local governments, give them authority over various aspects of the state governmental function, and then sometimes take that authority away.

State Preemption: Thus, if there is any conflict between the laws of a state and a city, town, or county, state law prevails over the laws of the local government. Since cities, towns, and counties are only agents of the state government, state laws take precedence over ordinances passed by local governments and local regulations. By the same token, federal laws, which can preempt state laws can also preempt local government ordinances, because those ordinances are, constitutionally speaking, only actions of the state by and through the local governments.

Law and Regulation: Laws can be general statements of policy or they can be specific. The legislative branch often leaves it up to the administrative agencies, such as departments of motor vehicles, public health agencies, or education agencies to promulgate regulations that will more specifically set out the rules by which citizens, corporations, or other organizations must act. Every level of government has its own set of regulations. The regulations for the federal government are set out in the Code of Federal Regulations. In addition, each agency has policies that it adopts. States and local governments have their own regulations and policies. All of the regulations and policies have the force of law and will be enforced by the courts unless they exceed the legal power of the administrative agency or they were adopted in error.

Cities, towns, and counties, which are essentially just agents of the state governments, generally have a legislative body that passes laws and administrative agencies that carry them out. These local government agencies issue regulations and develop their own policies. In a city, the city council will pass ordinances that are laws effective only within the boundaries of the city. It will create agencies, such as a building department, a health department or a police department. These agencies will create their own regulations and policies about how they should function and some will promulgate regulations to govern the actions of citizens in areas within the agency’s authority. Sometimes a state agency will mandate the regulations to be administered by agencies of the city government, especially in technical areas. For example, most states have a state building code that is adopted by a state agency but administered by the building departments of local government entities.

Since the regulations and policies of local government are treated by the Constitution as simply regulations and policies of the states, they can be preempted by a federal law, regulation, or policy that occupies the same area of governance. Thus, federal regulation of food labeling will control over any state regulation of food labeling and state regulation will control over any local regulation of food labeling. Another example is regulation of the treatment of exotic wild animals, such lions, tigers, leopards and other large cats. Almost all of these animals are sold or used in international or interstate commerce, giving the federal government jurisdiction over them. A federal regulation about how these animals are to be treated will preempt any state regulation in the same area.

After Showing the Movie

The City of West Hollywood Ordinance

The City of West Hollywood ordinance banning cat declawing is still in effect. TWM suggests having students find the ordinance on the Internet and then answer the questions in Assignment #1, below. This is an ideal homework assignment. If showing the movie overlaps into a second day and the vote by the West Hollywood City Council has been shown during the first day, this assignment can be given before the movie is completed.

Note to teachers: This is an opportunity for students to read an ordinance which, after watching the movie, they will probably care a lot about. It is relatively short, simple, and easy to comprehend. The assignment will ensure that students have read and understood the ordinance. The assignment also covers some of the important elements of this lesson plan.


State and Federal Bans on Declawing Exotic Animals

Although it is not covered in the movie, Dr. Conrad and the Paw Project did not stop with ordinances prohibiting declawing of domestic pets. They also focused on exotic cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, and bobcats. There are hundreds of exotic cats held by animal sanctuaries, private zoos, individuals with working animals (e.g., those used in entertainment), wildlife educational organizations, and private parties. In 2005, after lobbying by The Paw Project, the California legislature enacted a statewide ban on the declawing of wild and exotic cats.

Note to teachers: The California Senate Committee on Business and Professions Report on Assembly Bill 557, February 2, 2004, is an excellent example of the analysis and care that goes into legislating, even on a narrow issue such as declawing exotic animals. TWM suggests that teachers have students read it in conjunction with Assignment #2, below.

However, California is just one state and there are exotic cats in almost all 50 states. In 1966 Congress, using its authority under the Commerce Clause, passed the Animal Welfare Act which governs the treatment of animals in exhibitions and research. Almost all of these animals are sold or moved in interstate or international commerce. 7 U.S.C. § 2131. The Animal Welfare Act requires that animal exhibitors and dealers obtain a federal license and comply with standards for the care of animals developed by the Department of Agriculture. These standards include adequate veterinary care. 7 U.S.C. § 2134(2)(A). In 2006 (a year after the California statute banning declawing wild and exotic cats), due in part to lobbying by the Paw Project, the Department of Agriculture amended its policies to provide that “The declawing of any wild or exotic carnivore does not constitute appropriate veterinary care.” Note that this is a policy by the Department of Agriculture and not a formal regulation published in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Note to teachers: Discussion question #2 deals with this issue. It can also be used as an essay prompt.


Other Legislation Relating to Declawing

In 2012, advocates led by the Paw Project convinced the California legislature to pass a law prohibiting landlords from requiring declawing and devocalization of animals as a condition of renting an apartment to the pet owner. Cal.Civ.Code § 1942.7. In 2013, the state of Rhode Island enacted a similar law.


The Resistance of Veterinary Professional Associations to Bans on Declawing

In the veterinary business, as in many other businesses, there is often a tension between serving the public and making money. For veterinarians, there is yet another interest to be taken into account and that is the welfare of the animal. The oath that every veterinarian takes requires that:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. [Italics supplied by TWM.]

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Associations of doctors, lawyers, dentists, veterinarians, and others who are considered to be “professionals” have several purposes. These can include keeping the standards of the profession high, educating their members about the latest developments in their profession, and serving the public interest. However, these professional associations have another aspect, and that is to serve the financial and other interests of their members. This can include lobbying congress, legislatures, or city councils for legislation favorable to their members or, as seen in the movie, opposing legislation that is not considered to be in the interests of their members. Sometimes, the goals of serving the public and keeping standards high, on the one hand, and serving the financial interests of the members, on the other, are in conflict.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (“the AVMA”) is a strong opponent of legislation banning declawing. It was the CVMA (California Veterinary Medical Association) that secured passage in California of the 2009 law prohibiting cities and towns from banning declawing after January 1, 2010.

In 2003, the AVMA published a policy on declawing which suggests educating pet owners about declawing and trying to use other alternatives before declawing, but which allows veterinarians to perform declawing operations even if there is no medical necessity, e.g., in cases of scratched furniture. Dr. Conrad claims that the AVMA has not aggressively enforced its own watered-down policy leaving veterinarians free to disobey the policy and to encourage declawing, for example, by failing to educate pet owners and by advertising discounts for the operation. Some have suggested that the AVMA, for which membership is not mandatory and which includes among its members only about half of practicing veterinarians, does not want to be seen as sacrificing the economic interests of its members who make money from the declawing operation. Proponents of ordinances like those passed in the eight California cities which prohibit declawing ask, “Why else would the AVMA oppose these laws?” While it is impossible to tell whether or not this charge is correct, it serves to highlight a potential conflict between the AVMA as a professional association protecting the interests of the public and the welfare of animals and the AVMA as a trade association interested in the financial success of its members.

Many veterinarians won’t do anything that is not in the best interests of the animals they treat. They decline to declaw cats, devocalize dogs, or euthanize animals that are not terminal. However, as the number of maimed cats in the U.S. demonstrates, there are many other veterinarians who continue to declaw cats either to serve their human customers or simply to make money.


After the class has watched the film, engage students in a discussion about the movie. Suggested discussion questions are set out below:


1. Dr. Conrad is trying to get her movie shown as much as possible to advocate for the anti-declawing cause. What advice would you give to Dr. Conrad for the next few steps in converting her educational program into legislation or regulation?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct answer to this question. Teachers should use all responses as a springboard to discuss elements of civics and American government. Another good idea is to have members of the class make respectful comments and constructive criticisms of ideas expressed by their classmates. It is possible that one suggestion will lead to another and ideas good enough to send to The Paw Project may come up in the discussion. Feel free to email the best suggestions to Dr. Conrad at It is possible that you will get a response that can be read to the class. Also, the class may want to make a project of petitioning their elected representatives to support a law banning declawing.


2. In 2005, California enacted a statewide ban on declawing wild and exotic cats. The bill was sponsored by The Paw Project. In 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture enacted a ban on declawing all wild and exotic animals held by USDA-licensed owners. Explain the difference between the law and the regulation in terms of how it was adopted, its scope, the source of its legal power, and whether the state law was preempted by the federal regulation.

Suggested Response:

The law was passed by a vote of the state legislature and signed by the governor. The regulation is a policy of the Department of Agriculture, promulgated by public employees and probably approved by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, a cabinet-level officer in the federal government. The USDA ban on declawing wild and exotic cats is a policy rather than an official regulation, meaning it was not published in the Federal Register and it is not in the Code of Federal Regulations. The scope of the USDA policy is national while the California statute applies only in that state. The source of the legal power for the state statute is the police power. The source of the legal power of the USDA regulation is the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. As for preemption, to the extent that the federal government, validly using its powers under the commerce clause, has occupied an area of regulation, the state law has been preempted. However, the provisions are virtually the same, so there is no real change brought about by the federal preemption. In addition, the state law would still apply if there were any wild or exotic cats not covered by USDA policies.


3. The AVMA position statement on the declawing of domestic cats – April 15, 2003 states that “Declawing of domestic cats 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).” (A “zoonotic disease” is an illness that can be passed between animals and humans.) The policy advises the veterinarian to educate the pet owner about the risks of declawing so that the pet owner can make an informed decision. Which do you think is better public policy: to leave the decision to the veterinarian and the pet owner as set out in the AVMA policy or to ban the procedure outright as advocated by Dr. Conrad and The Paw Project?


A good class discussion will include the following concepts: Many people believe that it is generally better not to invoke the power of the state and get the government involved in the lives of citizens if a problem can be fixed without government intervention. These people would say that the way to respond to the problem of declawing cats is publicity and public outreach. The Paw Project points out that declawing is the amputation of bones and claw with significant adverse consequences to the cat for the rest of its life. Proponents of bans on declawing contend that this is an appropriate subject for legislation because pet owners are often not educated about the nature of the operation and the problems associated with declawing, that pet owners have an interest in stopping damage to their furniture which is against the interests of the cat in keeping its claws, and that veterinarians have an interest in making money by performing the operation. Moreover, as shown in the film, many pet owners will simply defer to the veterinarian who might not tell them about the problems caused by declawing. There is no assurance that anyone will advocate for the interests of the cat in avoiding amputation and keeping its claws. History has shown that attempting to convince veterinarians to stop declawing cats has not worked. The Paw Project contends that the people, acting through the state, should step in and impose the solution. The Paw Project and its volunteers ask this question to prove their point, “The AVMA has clearly not been able to regulate veterinarians because if declawing was truly a last resort, how could 25% of American domestic cats be declawed?”


4. In almost all U.S. jurisdictions landlords can choose not to rent to people with pets. There are exceptions for therapy dogs but for regular pet owners, it is sometimes hard to find an apartment unless they give up their pets. Given the importance of pets to many people and the fact that ownership of a domestic dog or cat has been shown to lower stress and provide important companionship to lonely people, do you favor a law prohibiting landlords from considering pet ownership when making a decision as to whom they will allow to be their tenant?


Some students will have strong opinions about this question. A strong discussion will include the following points.

Against the Proposed Legislation and in Favor of Keeping the Status Quo: In the U.S. generally, people have the right to do what they want with their property. In addition, many people believe that it is generally better not to invoke the power of the state and get the government involved in the lives of citizens. Owning a pet is a luxury and the people who want to own pets have to consider the consequences. One of the consequences is that they have to take care of their pet. Another is that it will be harder to find a place to rent. Also, where will you draw the line? Some dogs are dangerous. Some cats ruin apartments by urinating, leaving a strong stench that is hard to remove. The increased costs of renting to tenants with pets will often be passed on to everyone, including those who don’t own pets. This is one more regulation that burdens businesses and raises the costs of doing business; it will also increase the cost of housing.

For the Proposed legislation to Prohibit Landlords from Refusing to Rent to Pet Owners: Pet ownership is good for people and something to encourage. It teaches compassion and improves emotional health; pets provide companionship to lonely people. If a person comes to love a pet, it is cruel to make that person get rid of the animal in order to find a place to live. Landlords make money renting their apartments. They benefit from society which provides services such as fire departments, police departments, the courts, roads, bridges, etc. Thus, it is appropriate that landlords be prohibited from using their property in a way that injures a large segment of the public, such as refusing to rent to pet owners. Landlords are already subject to many regulations to enhance the health and comfort of their tenants, such as the housing code, the building code and the health code, restrictions on retaliating against tenants for reporting conditions in need of repair etc. They are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sexual preference, etc. Prohibiting landlords from discriminating against pet owners is not too much of a burden to ask and will enhance the general welfare by allowing pet owners to find a place to live. Given the importance of pet ownership to many people, this is a reasonable obligation to impose on landlords. In addition, fewer animals will be sent to shelters and possibly killed if no one adopts them. Landlords can be protected by allowing them to increase the security deposits a reasonable amount or to evict people with problem pets.


5. In general, what are the responsibilities of a pet owner to his or her pet?


Ensure that the following concepts are included in the discussion. While people are said to “own animals”, there is a difference between possessing an animal, especially a pet, and possessing an inanimate object. Discuss those differences which include: animals can feel pain, they have needs such as the need for food, water, and exercise. Most mammals enjoy socializing with others of their own species as do most birds. Even back in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans had laws prohibiting cruelty to animals. However, often these laws have not been enforced. Modern views include the concept that the owner is the “guardian” of the animal and has the responsibility to look out for the animal’s interests.


6. Whose interests should a veterinarian look out for and in what order of priority? The public, the owner, or the animal?

Suggested Response:

This will be a matter of debate. Certainly the health and welfare of the human public comes first. The real question is whether the client of the veterinarian is the pet or the pet owner. A good discussion will note that animals cannot speak and if there is a conflict between the interest of the animal and that of the owner, only the veterinarian can advocate for the animal,


7. Teachers: Ask students if they know of any other examples of situations in which citizens sought to change their government and organized to protest and lobby. If they have personal experience with it, get them to describe what happened.

Suggested Response:

Hopefully, students’ families or friends were involved in instances of citizen participation and students can tell the class what happened. Examples from U.S. history include, the abolition movement before the Civil War (see Learning Guide to Amistad, the movement for women’s suffrage (see Learning Guide to Iron Jawed Angels), independence for India (see Learning Guide to Gandhi), and, of course, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (see Snippet Lesson Plan to The Nashville Sit-Ins Using a Film Clip from A Force More Powerful).


See also Standard Discussion Questions for a Documentary.



See Discussion Questions 5 & 6 in the main page of the lesson plan.



See discussion Discussion Question # 7


Any of the discussion questions can serve as an essay prompt.

1. Find the City of West Hollywood anti-declawing ordinance on the Internet. Read both the Findings and the Prohibition section. Then write a short paragraph answering each of the following questions:

  • Which section refers to the “police power” and what is the purpose of that reference?
  • What is the purpose of subsection (i) of the “Findings”?
  • Identify three words in the Ordinance that are unusual, look up their definitions, and for each word rephrase the sentence in which it appears without using the word.
  • If a cat destroyed a $5000 couch could the owner legally have the cat declawed in the City of West Hollywood? Set out the language from the ordinance which applies to this situation and explain your interpretation.


2. Research and write an essay on whether or not there should be laws against declawing exotic cats. Include in your research the following two documents: California Senate Committee on Business and Professions Report on Assembly Bill 557, February 2, 2004 and the section relating to declawing in the USDA Animal Care Policy Resource Guide, March 2011 — Veterinary Care section relating to “Declawing and Defanging Practices in Wild or Exotic Carnivores or Nonhuman Primates” August 2006.


3. Research and write an essay explaining the different powers and roles of federal, state, and local government in the federal constitutional system and in your state. Demonstrate how the provisions of your state constitution and laws would apply to a municipal ordinance prohibiting declawing domestic cats.


4. Research and write an essay explaining how power is distributed between the state and local governments in the state in which you live.


5. Research and write an essay explaining how public policy is formed, including the setting of the public agenda and implementation of it through legislation, regulations and the exercise of executive power. Give examples from the activities of The Paw Project as shown in the movie and discovered by you in research about its activities.


6. Research and write an essay comparing the processes of lawmaking at each of the three levels of government, federal, state, and local, including the role of lobbying and the media.


7. Find laws from your state and an ordinance from your city or county which regulates that treatment of animals or forbids animal cruelty. Copy the provisions and summarize them.


8. Write a review of the film.



Have the class conduct a mock municipal council hearing on an issue of interest to the students. Ideas are: an ordinance banning declawing or prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to people who have pets. Choose city councilors and advocates for each side. Have the proponents of the ordinance draft a proposed law and submit it to the class before the mock hearing. Give the opponents an opportunity to draft amendments if they so choose. There should be chairman of the hearing who moderates the proceedings, or the teacher can serve as moderator.



1. Write an essay comparing the findings of (1) The City of West Hollywood Declawing Ordinance; (2) California Senate Committee on Business and Professions Report on Assembly Bill 557, February 2, 2004; (3) The U.S. Department of Agriculture policy prohibiting the declawing of exotic and wild animals within its jurisdiction; and (4) the AVMA position statement on the declawing of domestic cats – April 15, 2003. Describe the similarities and the differences particularly with respect to the findings about whether Declawing is harmful. Write a concluding section in which you discuss which policy you find the most persuasive?


2. Have students retrieve, read and summarize the case of California Veterinary Med. Ass’n v. City of W. Hollywood, 152 Cal. App. 4th 536, 61 Cal. Rptr. 3d 318 (2007).


California Grade 12 Standards — Principles of American Democracy

California Grade 12 Standards — Principles of American Democracy

12.2 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured.

12.2.1 Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of . . . assembly [and] petition . . . ).

12.2.2 Explain how economic rights are secured and their importance to the individual and to society (e.g., the right to acquire, use, transfer, and dispose of property; right to choose one’s work; right to join or not join labor unions; copyright and patent).

. . . .

12.2.4 Understand the obligations of civic-mindedness, including voting, being informed on civic issues, volunteering and performing public service, and serving in the military or alternative service.

12.3 Students evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of civil society are (i.e., the autonomous sphere of voluntary personal, social, and economic relations that are not part of government), their interdependence, and the meaning and importance of those values and principles for a free society.

12.3.1 Explain how civil society provides opportunities for individuals to associate for social, cultural, religious, economic, and political purposes.

12.3.2 Explain how civil society makes it possible for people, individually or in association with others, to bring their influence to bear on government in ways other than voting and elections. . . .

12.7 Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments.

12.7.1 Explain how conflicts between levels of government and branches of government are resolved.

12.7.2 Identify the major responsibilities and sources of revenue for state and local governments.

12.7.3 Discuss reserved powers and concurrent powers of state governments.

12.7.4 Discuss the Ninth and Tenth Amendments and interpretations of the extent of the federal government’s power.

12.7.5 Explain how public policy is formed, including the setting of the public agenda and implementation of it through regulations and executive orders.

12.7.6 Compare the processes of lawmaking at each of the three levels of government, including the role of lobbying and the media. . . .

12.8 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the influence of the media on American political life. . . .

12.8.2 Describe the roles of broadcast, print, and electronic media, including the Internet, as means of communication in American politics. . .

12.10 Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

Chapter 113. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies

Chapter 113. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies
Subchapter C. High School

§113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.
(8) Students identify and discuss how the actions of U.S. citizens and the local, state, and federal governments have either met or failed to meet the ideals espoused in the founding documents.

(23) Citizenship. The student understands efforts to expand the democratic process. The student is expected to:
(A) identify and analyze methods of expanding the right to participate in the democratic process, including lobbying, non-violent protesting, litigation, and amendments to the U.S. Constitution; . . .

(C) explain how participation in the democratic process reflects our national ethos, patriotism, and civic responsibility as well as our progress to build a “more perfect union.”
§113.42. World History Studies (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.
(10) Students identify and discuss how the actions of U.S. citizens and the local, state, and federal governments have either met or failed to meet the ideals espoused in the founding documents.

(21) Citizenship. The student understands the significance of political choices and decisions made by individuals, groups, and nations throughout history. The student is expected to: . . .

(B) describe the rights and responsibilities of citizens and noncitizens in civic participation throughout history; and
§113.43. World Geography Studies (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.


(8) Students identify and discuss how the actions of U.S. citizens and the local, state, and federal governments have either met or failed to meet the ideals espoused in the founding documents.

(15) Citizenship. The student understands how different points of view influence the development of public policies and decision-making processes on local, state, national, and international levels. The student is expected to:
(A) identify and give examples of different points of view that influence the development of public policies and decision-making processes on local, state, national, and international levels; and

§113.44. United States Government (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.

(b) Introduction.

(1) In United States Government, the focus is on the principles and beliefs upon which the United States was founded and on the structure, functions, and powers of government at the national, state, and local levels. This course is the culmination of the civic and governmental content and concepts studied from Kindergarten through required secondary courses. . . . Students analyze the impact of individuals, political parties, interest groups, and the media on the American political system, evaluate the importance of voluntary individual participation in a constitutional republic . . . . Students examine the relationship between governmental policies and the culture of the United States. Students . . . . and use critical-thinking skills to create a product on a contemporary government issue. . . .

(8) Students identify and discuss how the actions of U.S. citizens and the local, state, and federal governments have either met or failed to meet the ideals espoused in the founding documents.

(c) Knowledge and skills.

(2) History. The student understands the roles played by individuals, political parties, interest groups, and the media in the U.S. political system, past and present. The student is expected to:

(A) give examples of the processes used by individuals, political parties, interest groups, or the media to affect public policy; and

(B) analyze the impact of political changes brought about by individuals, political parties, interest groups, or the media, past and present.

(3) Geography. The student understands how geography can influence U.S. political divisions and policies. The student is expected to:

(A) understand how population shifts affect voting patterns;

(B) examine political boundaries to make inferences regarding the distribution of political power; and

(8) Government. The student understands the structure and functions of the government created by the U.S. Constitution. The student is expected to:

(H) compare the structures, functions, and processes of national, state, and local governments in the U.S. federal system.

(9) Government. The student understands the concept of federalism. The student is expected to:

(B) categorize government powers as national, state, or shared; . . .

(D) understand the limits on the national and state governments in the U.S. federal system of government. . . . .

(11) Government. The student understands the role of political parties in the U.S. system of government. The student is expected to:

(C) identify opportunities for citizens to participate in political party activities at local, state, and national levels.

(14) Citizenship. The student understands the difference between personal and civic responsibilities. The student is expected to:

(A) explain the difference between personal and civic responsibilities;

(B) evaluate whether and/or when the obligation of citizenship requires that personal desires and interests be subordinated to the public good;

(C) understand the responsibilities, duties, and obligations of citizenship such as being well informed about civic affairs, serving in the military, voting, serving on a jury, observing the laws, paying taxes, and serving the public good; and . . . .

(15) Citizenship. The student understands the importance of voluntary individual participation in the U.S. constitutional republic. The student is expected to:

(A) analyze the effectiveness of various methods of participation in the political process at local, state, and national levels;

(B) analyze historical and contemporary examples of citizen movements to bring about political change or to maintain continuity; and . . .

(16) Citizenship. The student understands the importance of the expression of different points of view in a constitutional republic. The student is expected to:

(A) examine different points of view of political parties and interest groups . . . . on important contemporary issues; and

(B) analyze the importance of the First Amendment rights of petition, assembly, speech, and press . . . .
§113.47. Special Topics in Social Studies (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012. c. Skills

(20) Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to:

(A) analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions;

(B) create a product on a contemporary government issue or topic using critical methods of inquiry;

(C) analyze and defend a point of view on a current political issue;

(D) analyze and evaluate the validity of information, arguments, and counterarguments from primary and secondary sources for bias, propaganda, point of view, and frame of reference; . . . .

(21) Social studies skills. The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:

(A) use social studies terminology correctly;

(B) use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation;

(C) transfer information from one medium to another, including written to visual and statistical to written or visual, using computer software as appropriate; and

(D) create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information.

(22) Social studies skills. The student uses problem-solving and decision-making skills, working independently and with others, in a variety of settings. The student is expected to:

(A) use a problem-solving process to identify a problem, gather information, list and consider options, consider advantages and disadvantages, choose and implement a solution, and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution; and

(B) use a decision-making process to identify a situation that requires a decision, gather information, identify options, predict consequences, and take action to implement a decision.

Illinois Learning Standards

STATE GOAL 14: Understand political systems, with an emphasis on the United States.

Why This Goal Is Important: . . . Through the study of various forms and levels of govern¬ment and the documents and institutions of the United States, students will develop the skills and knowledge that they need to be contributing citizens, now and in the future.

A. Understand and explain basic principles of the United States government.

Early High School
14.A.4 Analyze how local, state and national governments serve the purposes for which they were created.
C. Understand election processes and responsibilities of citizens.

Early High School
14.C.4 Describe the meaning of par¬ticipatory citizenship (e.g., volunteerism, voting) at all levels of government and society in the United States.
D. Understand the roles and influ¬ences of individuals and interest groups in the political systems of Illinois, the United States and other nations.

Early High School
14.D.4 Analyze roles and influences of individuals, groups and media in shaping current debates on state and national policies.
Late High School
14.D.5 Interpret a variety of public policies and issues from the perspectives of different individuals and groups.

New York Social Studies Learning Standard 5-C Civics Government

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the U.S. and other nations; the U.S. Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.

Key Idea #2 The state and federal governments established by the Constitutions of the United States and the State of New York embody basic civic values (such as justice, honesty, self-discipline, due process, equality, majority rule with respect for minority rights, and respect for self, others, and property), principles, and practices and establish a system of shared and limited government.
• Understand the dynamic re l a t i o n s h i p between federalism and states ‘rights.
Key Idea #3

Central to civics and citizenship is an understanding of the roles of the citizen within American constitutional democracy and the scope of a citizen’s rights and responsibilities.
• Explore how citizens influence public policy in a representative democracy.
Key Idea #4

The study of civics and citizenship requires the ability to probe ideas and assumptions, ask and answer analytical questions, take a skeptical attitude toward questionable arguments, evaluate evidence, formulate rational conclusions, and develop and refine participatory skills.
• participate as informed citizens in the political justice system and processes of the United States, including voting

• evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of American political life are and their importance to the maintenance of constitutional democracy (Adapted from The National Standards for Civics and Government, 1994)

• take, defend, and evaluate positions about attitudes that facilitate thoughtful and eff e c t i v e participation in public affairs

• p re p a re a plan of action that defines an issue or problem, suggests alternative solutions or courses of action, evaluates the consequences for each alternative solution, prioritizes the solutions on the basis of established criteria, and proposes an action plan to address the issue or to resolve the problem

• explain how democratic principles have been used in resolving an issue or problem .


High school students interested in animal issues will particularly enjoy the following books:

  • Where the Blind Horse Sings by Kathy Stevens;
  • Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn

Advanced high school and college level students should be referred to the classic that has inspired millions of people worldwide and which was an inspiration to Dr. Conrad, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation.


This lesson plan was written by James Frieden and Deborah Elliott and was last revised on July 30, 2014.

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