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For Immediate Release: 03/06/12

Born Free USA Leads Urgent Initiative in Connecticut to Protect Children and Animals from Leghold Traps

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is urging Connecticut lawmakers to pass legislation addressing the use of barbaric leghold traps, especially in areas frequented by children and families’ animal companions. Leghold traps are freely allowed in Connecticut, with the only requirements being that they are padded when set on land and that they are set 100 feet away from buildings located on some private lands.

Connecticut House Bill 5324 — An Act Concerning Child Safety by Restricting the Placement of Leghold Traps — was heard this morning before the state Legislature’s Select Committee on Children. Drafted in part by Born Free USA and championed by state Rep. Diana Urban (D-Stonington/North Stonington), the landmark bill restricts placement of leghold traps set on or within 1,500 feet of areas where children are likely to encounter such devices: an elementary or secondary school, licensed child day care center, park, playground, public road, highway, public boat launch, roadside rest area, picnic area, campground, blazed trail or state hiking trail. The bill also requires trappers to report non-targeted catches to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection within 24 hours.

According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “For every target animal trapped at least two non-targeted animals are estimated to be brutally captured. Family cats and dogs, as well as endangered species, are often severely injured or killed as a result of traps set for wild animals by trappers who plan to capture them and strip their fur.”

Over the past three months Born Free USA has seen a record high in reports from the public about cats, dogs and other species getting caught. These traps are set in common areas where people are hiking with their animal companions and children are playing. Roberts says, “This is not only a tragedy for all animals, but a life-threatening public safety risk that must end.”

Born Free USA regularly receives reports about family cats and dogs who are either severely injured or killed by leghold traps. The organization established the Born Free USA Trapping Victims Fund to assist guardians with veterinary costs involved when companion animals are caught in traps, and keeps an online database of non-targeted incidents to bring attention to the issue. The database lists about 350 non-targeted trapping incidents across the nation, with a death toll of 144. These statistics only reflect reported cases, and Born Free USA encourages the public to report all cases they are aware of.

“We are thankful that Rep. Urban, one of Connecticut’s strongest leaders on child safety, reached out to Born Free USA to pursue this legislation,” says Tracy Coppola, program associate for Born Free USA who spoke at today’s press conference and hearing in Hartford. “Last August, children in Ansonia found a cat in a leghold, with injuries so severe he had to be euthanized. Just years prior, children in Ansonia found a kitten caught in a leghold trap that had to have his leg amputated in order to survive. There are many more incidents where the public is calling on lawmakers to protect their communities from indiscriminate traps.”

Rep. Diana Urban said, "As chair of the Select Committee on Children, I was very concerned by the incident in Ansonia where both the animal control officer and veterinarian commented on the possibility that the cat that got trapped could have easily been a child. Thanks to Born Free USA's research, it is clear that companion animals get caught far more often than we'd like to think and that people have also gotten caught in these barbaric traps. This legislation would take a great step forward in protecting children as well as companion animals."

Born Free USA released a groundbreaking undercover investigation last March that revealed shocking cruelty and brutality. This was the first known undercover investigation of trapping in the United States. Born Free USA works to expose the truth and eliminate cruel traps by encouraging policymakers to enact stronger laws, ensuring state agencies are enforcing existing protections, and championing humane alternatives of mitigating conflicts with wildlife.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

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