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Trapping Destroys Families

Published 06/15/04
Source: Animal Issues, Volume 35 Number 2, Summer 2004

Our companion animals are truly part of our family, as anyone living with — or losing — a beloved cat or dog will attest.

That’s certainly been true for the many guardians whose companion animals have been injured, or even killed, by traps. Some of these people have written to API to tell us about what happened to their cherished friends. Their letters are filled with anguish that their animals suffered, along with outrage that these cruel traps can still be used legally in this country, in this day and age.

API actively campaigns to ban body-gripping traps, and to educate the public about the real threats these traps pose not only to the animals they target, but also to “non-target animals, companion animals, endangered species, and humans. Below are a few stories that illustrate just how dangerous these traps can be to the companion animals we love.

The Snare

Richard Stengel and Jesse Russell rescued Menodae, a black-lab mix, from an abusive home. But even they couldn’t protect Menodae from the cruel reach of a strangulation neck snare.

In early December 2003, Stengel and Russell let their two dogs outside for a daily romp near their rural home in northern Ontario, Canada. Only Nindo returned; the family didn’t see Menodae for 19 days.

Stengel and Russell searched for Menodae for weeks, to no avail. Finally, five days after Christmas, Menodae miraculously reappeared — with a trapper’s wire snare embedded so far into her neck that her windpipe was exposed.

Over the course of her ordeal, Menodae had lost 20 pounds. Her family reported that her teeth were ground down from gnawing on the trap, her left eye was swollen shut, and the wounds around her neck caused by the snare could only be described as gruesome. Fortunately, Menodae is expected to recover from her tragic ordeal.

Menodae was injured in a snare, a wire noose designed to tighten around an animal’s neck, leg, abdomen, or other body part. A snare is truly a “vicious circle”; the more a snared animal struggles, the tighter the noose becomes, and the tighter the noose becomes, the more the animal struggles and suffers.

As Menodae proved, snares are indiscriminate, and will capture almost any animal around any body part. Further, because snares are cheap and easy to set, trappers will often saturate an area with traps to catch as many animals as possible. Since snares are so inexpensive, there is less incentive for trappers to retrieve them after the trapping season ends, meaning that they could pose a threat for months or even years.

The Conibear Kill Trap

Just a few days into 2004, API heard the chilling story about how, in the “snap” of a trap, the Forrester family was forever changed.

Through API’s website, Elizabeth and Steven Forrester reported the tragic loss of their dog, Holden, to a Conibear kill trap in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. With great sorrow, the Forresters added their story to API’s database of incidents in which non-target animals have been trapped. (If you know of or have read about such an incident, please contact API or use our online reporting form, available at www.BanCruelTraps.com.)

“This is the most tragic and awful loss my husband and I have ever experienced,” wrote Elizabeth Forrester. She went on to describe how the trap “came up out of nowhere” and clamped around Holden’s throat. Their dog “died in our arms,” she said. “This barbaric and cruel method of trapping should be banned in EVERY STATE!”

The device that killed Holden was a Conibear kill trap, which consists of two hinged, metal, rectangular jaws.

Originally intended as a “quick kill” device, the Conibear trap is designed to snap shut fast and hard on an animal’s spine at the base of the skull. However, it is impossible to control the size, species, and direction of the animal entering the trap, and numerous research studies have shown that most animals do not die quickly in Conibear kill traps.

Further, as the Forresters learned in the most tragic manner imaginable, it is extremely difficult to open the jaws of a Conibear kill trap. A companion animal accidentally caught in a Conibear kill trap is not likely to be freed in time to survive.

The Leghold Trap

Trappers often describe the leghold trap as a “restraining device” that simply “holds” an animal in place until the trapper returns to kill his quarry. But veterinarians who have treated animals caught in these traps know otherwise.

In October 1999, when Carol Pfaff brought Spike, her seven-month old kitten, to the Lynch Animal Hospital in Middletown, OH, he was missing his leg. “It was horrible,” Pfaff told the Middletown Journal. “There were just bones hanging out. I was so sick I was almost in shock.”

Spike’s leg had been caught in a steel trap set near his home. Dr. Leland Lynch deduced that the kitten had chewed off his own leg trying to escape from the trap. He told a reporter, “I’ve never seen a more mangled leg in my 40 years of practice. When I was giving the cat injections to sedate him, he was furiously chewing at his own leg.” Spike endured three hours of surgery and had the remainder of his left front leg amputated.

Along with learning to walk on three legs, Spike adapted to another change. “He’s a house cat now,” Pfaff said, thankful that her cat was still alive, and intent on protecting him by keeping him indoors.

For centuries, trappers have favored the steel-jaw leghold trap, which remains legal in most U.S. states. More than 85 countries, however, including all member countries of the European Union, have banned or restricted the trap, and API aims to end its use in this country, as well.

When an animal steps into a steel-jaw leghold trap, a tension device is triggered, causing the jaws of the trap to slam shut on the victim’s leg or other body part. The so-called “padded” leghold trap is nothing more than a steel-jaw leghold trap with a thin strip of rubber attached to each jaw, although proponents of the trap tout it as a “humane” alternative to the steel-jaw version.

Most animals react to the pain of being trapped by frantically attempting to free themselves, enduring in the process fractures, ripped tendons, blood loss, amputations, and tooth and mouth damage from biting at the trap. Some animals, such as Spike, will even chew or twist off their limbs.

Many veterinary associations, including the World Veterinary Association and the American Animal Hospital Association, have issued policy statements opposing the use of leghold traps on humane grounds. It’s clear from these families’ sad stories that now is the time to ban all cruel body-gripping traps.


Help API Ban Cruel Traps

Trappers freely admit that “non-target” animals — including companion animals, threatened and endangered species, and even children — are trapped in the course of setting traps for targeted species.

With your help, API aims to end the use of cruel body-gripping traps. We recognize that a ban on all inhumane traps will not happen overnight; incremental change is important, too, and will help build momentum for more far-reaching reform. Every step counts! Please join us in our critical campaign. Download our step-by-step guide to organizing an anti-trapping campaign from API’s website, www.BanCruelTraps.com, or contact us to receive a copy by mail.

By working together, you and API can bring about the day when cruel, indiscriminate, and outdated trapping practices are no longer “business as usual.”

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