PAWS Magazine

 

Issue 47, Fall 2000

 

1980 Initiative attempt helped set the stage for future efforts

"I remember driving down to Oregon to a meeting about putting a trapping initiative on the ballot and we were driving through Mt. St. Helens’ ash."

So recalls Curtiss Clumpner about the efforts to ban leghold traps two decades ago—in 1980. Clumpner became the co-chair of the initiative, Initiative 386, along with Dr. Howard McGaw of the Bellingham Humane Society. As part of the staff at PAWS, Curtiss had seen many domestic animals injured by traps.

"People would bring us injured animals who’d been in traps for days. We felt we had to do something about it," said Curtiss. "In the early days, the ‘70s and ‘80s, we tried to get limited bans—such as trying to end trapping around the shores of Lake Washington."

One fairly famous victim of a leghold trap was "Trapper," a cat who was spotted in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood dragging around a leghold trap. Mary Felix, an animal control agent, could tell that the cat had obviously been suffering for days because gangrene had already set in. Bones protruded out of the end of his foot. Trapper was taken to a veterinarian, Dr. Stanley Coe, who amputated his leg. Trapper became an inspiration for the 1980 leghold trap ban efforts, and because no one came to claim the lost cat, Trapper became the PAWS’ poster cat for the Initiative.

The 1980 initiative had much in common with today’s Initiative 713. Initiative 386 sought to ban leghold traps for commercial trapping, but allowed use of traps by state agents to alleviate public health and safety emergencies, and for "nuisance" wildlife (and rodents).

In the days of signature gathering for I-386, volunteers worked the movie theatre lines where "The Empire Strikes Back" was the feature film.

"It was a great place to gather signatures," says Robin Hall, a volunteer during the 1980 effort who later went on to serve on the PAWS Board. "The lines were long and people had time to talk. And, generally, people were supportive."

Back then, Robin averaged 20 signatures per hour for I-386. This year, she found her average to be more like 30 signatures per hour for I-713.

Virginia Knouse, PAWS’ Executive Director at the time, remembers the night of the deadline for gathering the required 124,000 signatures. "It was midnight on July 2. We counted about 100,000 signatures. We were in such disbelief that we crawled around on our hands and knees, looking behind desks—anywhere more petitions could have fallen out of sight. We were so disappointed.

"But because of our efforts, many people became aware of the brutality and unnecessary cruelty that leghold traps impose on wild animals and unintended victims like Trapper. Our work helped lay the foundation for our continuing efforts, which today, have much greater support among the people in our state."

"The leghold trap is a wicked instrument that should be banished from Washington’s outdoors." That statement is just as true today as it was on April 23, 1980, when the Everett Herald published its endorsement of Initiative 386.

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