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Biting Back: New Tools for Targeting Cruel Traps

Published 09/15/05
Source: Animal Issues, Volume 36 Number 3, Fall 2005

On a cold winter day in Belleville, Wisconsin, Peter Westenberger decided to take his long-haired Jack Russell terrier, Olie, for a walk. Little did Westenberger know what horrors lay in store.

As the pair walked through the Yellowstone Lake Wildlife Area, Olie sauntered off, pursuing some interesting smells in the tall grass near the trail.

Within minutes, Peter realized Olie was nowhere to be seen or heard — highly unusual for his ever-present and vocal companion. Peter began searching through the grass into which Olie had disappeared. Moments later, Peter found his beloved companion, standing helplessly with a huge Conibear kill trap clamped around his throat and body, unable to move or bark. Olie looked up plaintively as the trap slowly cut off his air supply.

“He could not thrash nor emit any sound because the trap had such a tight grasp around his neck and body,” Peter wrote to API. “It took me at least another minute to extract him from the trap. It was too late. Only five minutes had elapsed. He was my best buddy and I am very sad and sick over the incident. ... I cried and cried for him.”

Peter and his wife Kellie immediately contacted the park conservation warden, only to learn that the trap was perfectly legal — even though it was set on state-run public lands — and that nothing could be done.

In desperation, Peter and Kellie searched the Internet and found API’s trapping website, www.BanCruelTraps.com. There, they read the accounts of other people who had lost companion animals to indiscriminate traps. They were shocked to learn that their terrible encounter with a trap was far from some isolated, one-of-a-kind horror and that many others had gone through similar experiences. They immediately filled out API’s online “trapping incident report form,” sharing Olie’s story with the world in the hopes of alerting others to the dangers of traps and preventing such tragedies in the future.

“If we could do something in [Olie’s] honor, I would feel some sense of justice was had by this horrible experience,” Kellie Westenberger said to API.

You Can Help Stop Trapping!

Grisly deaths such as Olie’s happen time and again, particularly during the fall and winter months, when the fur trapping season is in full swing and large numbers of Conibear kill traps, leghold traps, and snares are laid out in places frequented by people and their companion animals. As the Westenbergers’ experience illustrated, many public lands designated “wildlife areas” continue to allow trapping and hunting, leaving little room for those who do not engage in such lethal pursuits and who simply want to enjoy nature undisturbed.

API, a recognized leader in the fight against cruel traps, has a wealth of tools available to those who want to make a difference.

A key component of our campaign to put an end to trapping is our newly-redesigned, easy-to-navigate website, www.BanCruelTraps.com. This site makes it easy for caring individuals to take action!

Start by checking out API’s online advocacy resources, including an Activist Tool Kit that includes a step-by-step workbook to guide activists through the various processes that can be used to target trapping at the state and local levels. We provide model legislation for banning body-gripping traps, along with fact sheets for use in grassroots campaigns. The site is also a great place to find up-to-the-minute action alerts that let you know about opportunities to speak out against trapping and for the animals across the country.

API has also made the contents of our new trapping book, Cull of the Wild: A Contemporary Analysis of Trapping in the United States, available to all on the Ban Cruel Traps website. So whether you want to know which states prohibit specific types of traps, how many animals are trapped in your state, what your state’s regulations are regarding trap use and landowner permission, or how frequently traps must be checked by law in your state, you can get the answers here. (You can also order both the book and the companion video of the same name online, or by calling API at 1-800-348-7387.)

On the Ban Cruel Traps website, you can also find the online report form and database of trapping incidents involving humans and “non-target” animals such as cats and dogs, as well as imperiled species. These are critical tools in the fight against trapping, as state agencies do not require that trappers report the non-target animals they trap and there is no centralized repository for such information. API created this database to illustrate the prevalence of non-target captures and the threat that body-gripping traps pose to our companion animals, threatened and endangered species, birds, and other animals.

API hopes that, like the Westenbergers, you’ll want to take action to help stop trapping cruelty in your community. Getting active can be as simple as writing a letter to the editor to help educate others about the issue, or as far-reaching as seeking legislation to restrict trapping at the local or state level.

Whatever path you chose to take, start at the Ban Cruel Traps website so you are armed with the facts and information you’ll need to make a credible argument for banning cruel traps in your community. And know that API is here to assist wherever we can with expertise and materials. Get active today and don’t hesitate to contact us when you’re ready to take action!


Stop Trapping on National Wildlife Refuges!

Did you know that more than half of all National Wildlife Refuges allow trapping, hunting, and other activities inimical to wildlife protection?

Right now, you have a chance to speak out against such activities, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently developing comprehensive conservation plans (CCPs) that will determine the future of the National Wildlife Refuge System. These plans are open for public comment and it's critical that those who want to see the refuge system function as a true “erfuge,” speak out against the recreational and commercial killing of wildlife on this public land system.

To learn how to add your voice to the campaign against trapping on National Wildlife Refuges by submitting a comment on CCPs, visit the “Action Alert” section of www.BanCruelTraps.com, or call API at 1-800-348-7387 to receive a printed version of our Action Alert on this issue.

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