Prohibiting cruel traps is reasonable

By JIM TIMMONS

One crisp afternoon this past January, Lisa Parsons was walking with her dogs along the Green River Gorge in Enumclaw. Her large Husky mix, Merlyn, suddenly began howling and shrieking in pain. His paw was caught in a steel-jawed leghold trap. After several agonizing minutes of fumbling with the trap, Lisa managed to pry open the jaws and free her pet. Her own fingers were nearly crushed in the process.

Lisa is one of dozens of Washington citizens whose family pets have been the victims of brutal steel-jawed leghold traps. With the passage of Initiative 713, these tragic incidents will be a thing of the past.

What is Initiative 713? I-713 is a citizens’ initiative that prohibits the use of body-gripping animal traps -steel-jawed leghold traps, Conibear traps, leg snares and neck snares – for recreation or commerce in fur. It also bans two poisons commonly used to kill coyotes – sodium cyanide and sodium fluoroacetate (Compound 1080). Sodium cyanide is currently legal and is used in Washington state. Compound 1080 is not legal at this time but is included in I-713 as a preemptive measure.

Traps and poisons are cruel. Animals caught in body-gripping traps often suffer prolonged and painful deaths. They suffer from broken bones, tendon and skin lacerations, and fractured jaws. Trapped animals languish without food or water and with no protection from the elements or predators. Some animals chew off their own feet in their frantic attempts to escape the vice-like grip of the trap. Trappers use brutal methods to kill trapped animals found alive, including bludgeoning, stomping and sometimes strangulation.

In the past five years, traps and poisons in Washington state have killed more than 92,000 bobcats, otters, beavers, minks, coyotes, raccoons, muskrats, nutria and fox – and untold numbers of non-target animals.

Traps and poisons are indiscriminate. 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, songbirds, and threatened or endangered species are the unintended victims of these indiscriminate devices.

I-713 protects people, landowners, ranchers and threatened and endangered species. I-713 does not ban all trapping. It prohibits the use of cruel traps for commercial and recreational purposes only. 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.

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 and killed. 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 with body-gripping traps 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 does not ban mouse, rat, mole or gopher traps. I-713 only bans the use of body-gripping animal traps for recreation or commerce in fur. It doesn’t ban trapping of moles, gophers, mice or rats – animals not trapped for fur. Ever seen a mole fur coat? Neither have we!

I-713 has broad support. I-713 qualified for the ballot with an all-volunteer signature gathering effort. More than 85 conservation, citizen and animal protection organizations, veterinarians and elected officials have endorsed I-713.

Vote Yes! on 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, nothing less. I-713 is a reasonable, common sense and straightforward measure that brings Washington’s trapping policies into the 21st century.

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