PAWS Magazine


Issue 47, Fall 2000


Washington voters can end cruel trapping next week

by Donna Frostholm

In the spring of 1997, I was working as a biologist in Central Washington. One day, I heard piercing high-pitched screams coming from a dog that had tagged along. The dog was caught in a steel-jawed leghold trap. Frantically, I tried to free him. Unfortunately, there was a second trap nearby which snapped shut on my thumb—we were both trapped. The excruciating pain, fear, and frustration were overwhelming. After some time, I was able to open both traps by using the weight of my entire body. The dog lost a considerable amount of blood from his paw and my thumb was fractured. I spent 4 weeks in a cast and several months in physical therapy. I will never forget the dog’s tormented screams or the unimaginable pain I experienced. It became obvious to me that day that trapping is nothing more than legalized animal cruelty. No animal deserves to suffer such a prolonged, agonizing death.

This dog was one of many family pets victimized by steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps in Washington State. Anyone who has seen the terror in the eyes of an animal caught in a trap, understands the inherent cruel and indiscriminate nature of these devices. With the passage of Initiative 713, these tragic incidents will be a thing of the past.

I-713 is a citizens’ initiative that prohibits the use of body-gripping animal traps — including the notorious steel-jawed leghold trap — for recreation or commerce in fur.

Animals caught in body-gripping traps often suffer prolonged and painful deaths. They suffer from broken bones and torn tendons. Some animals chew off their own feet in their frantic attempts to escape the vice-like grip of the trap.

In the past five years, traps and poisons in Washington State have killed more than 92,000 wild animals — and untold numbers of non-target animals. Traps and poisons are like land mines — they capture, maim and kill any animal who crosses their path. Too often, family pets, birds-of-prey, and threatened or endangered species are the unintended victims of these indiscriminate devices.

I-713 does not ban all trapping. It prohibits the use of cruel traps only for the purposes of recreation and commerce in fur. The initiative contains exceptions which allow for the use of certain body-gripping traps to protect human health and safety, property, livestock, threatened and endangered species, or for wildlife research.

I-713 does not ban trapping of moles, gophers, mice, or rats—animals not trapped for fur.

Commercial and recreational trapping is not a wildlife management tool. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife does not have population estimates for any of the species trapped in the state, yet they allow unlimited numbers of traps to be set and unlimited numbers of animals to be trapped. This is not reasonable or responsible wildlife management.

In reality, trapping activity is driven by the price of fur pelts, not the need to manage wildlife. State trapping statistics clearly show that when pelt prices are high, trapping activity increases. As fur prices fall, so does the number of active trappers. Commercial and recreational trapping amounts to random killing of wildlife for personal profit.

Trapping is not necessary for the control of wildlife diseases. The Washington State Department of Health utilizes the carcasses of trapped animals for only one portion of their Disease Surveillance Program. The minimal number of bobcat and coyote carcasses needed for this program can easily be obtained from hunters.

I-713 qualified for the ballot with an all-volunteer signature gathering effort. More than 100 conservation, citizen, and animal protection organizations, veterinarians, and elected officials have endorsed I-713.

I-713 seeks to halt the inhumane and indiscriminate killing of our wildlife and family pets by prohibiting steel-jawed leghold traps and other inhumane and indiscriminate devices used for fur trapping — nothing more. I-713 is a reasonable, common sense measure that brings Washington’s trapping policies into the 21st century.

Please vote yes on I-713!

(Donna Frostholm is a wetlands biologist and avid outdoor enthusiast. She’s lived in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years.)

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