The Animal Doctor

On Jan. 9, a federal judge struck down an Iowa law that makes it illegal to work at a livestock farm or puppy mill in order to conduct an undercover animal cruelty investigation.

U.S. District Court Judge James Gritzner ruled against the so-called "ag-gag" law, which Iowa lawmakers approved in 2012 to stop organizations from doing animal abuse investigations. The law threatened up to a year in jail to those who conducted an undercover operation.

In his decision, Gritzner stated that the Iowa law violated the constitutional right to free speech. Iowa's attorney general has filed a motion opposing the federal ruling.

“Ag-gag laws are a pernicious attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said in a prepared statement.

Federal courts have struck down similar laws in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Litigation is ongoing in North Carolina.

DEAR DR. FOX: My niece has an 8-year-old female cat named Cleo whom she adopted about six years ago from a shelter. Cleo was spayed but had a litter of kittens as a stray before she was brought to the shelter.

About two years ago at her annual checkup, the vet said Cleo had some lumps on her belly that were mammary cancer. She said that was common in female cats who have had a litter. It had not spread, so the vet did surgery, which I thought was pretty extensive. Anyway, we took Cleo for a follow-up X-ray six months after and she was clear. At her July 2018 annual exam, there were no bumps on her belly.

Last week, my niece felt a bump on Cleo and brought her in. They did an X-ray, and it's mammary cancer again but has not spread. Her blood work is OK. We have her scheduled for another surgery, but I worry about her age and anesthesia, and these two big surgeries in two years.

I wanted to know your feelings about it. It’s probably more torture for us after she has the surgery, seeing her like that and with a cone on her head. I worry that we are putting her through too much. I pay the vet bills, so hence I am writing to you. I talked to the vet myself, and she said this was the only option. The vet did say last time there was a 66 percent chance of the cancer returning, and it did. Cleo is a beloved family cat.

Thank you for any advice or thoughts. -- J.S., Naples, Florida

DEAR J.S.: I appreciate your concern and financial support for your niece’s cat. Both are fortunate.

Eight years is not very old for a cat, but some may be compromised as strays, along with all the trauma of survival and having a litter of kittens. With modern anesthetics and pre- and post-surgical care, competent veterinarians can perform small surgical miracles every day, so I would not delay a second surgery.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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