In my travels at VetBlog, I found several articles of interest on the practice of ear and tail docking, the effort to change breed standards to do away with this painful and potentially dangerous practice, and the changes in veterinary medicine in this area.
On a related subject, there’s also a post about a Massachusetts teen’s effort to ban ‘de-barking’ surgery:
There are also a number of entries about the almost always unnecessary and extremely inhumane practice of declawing cats.
The solution to problem barking is training.
The solution to protecting upholstery and toddlers from clawing cats is a combination of training, supplying appropriate places for your cat to shed its claws (scratching posts, etc.), using strong upholstery (or covering it), and training little kids.
The children-problem is often cited as the justification for much mistreatment of animals, ranging from declawing to locking dogs outdoors, in basements, or turning crate-training into cage-living.
Obviously, people want their kids to be safe. Kids should be safe. Animals, too. They both need training.
For safety’s sake, all children should be taught how to safely and respectfully handle animals, and how to leave them alone when the animal doesn’t want to be handled.
This is an essential area of knowledge for all children, even ones who don’t have animals in their own homes: they will encounter them elsewhere. A 101-level understanding of animal body language can usually prevent a bite or scratch.
Some shelter behaviorists put on workshops in schools and community centers teaching this information. Your vet might also be able to direct you to resources for training children in animal-handling skills.