A dog that has his neck caught in a body-gripping trap cannot bark, whine, or otherwise call to his owner to ask for help. He dies a silent, desperate death. The Minnesota State Legislature’s deadline to have bills voted out of committees in their house of origin is today, Friday, March 15, 2013. As of today, another year has gone by without the bill to protect dogs from being caught in deadly body-gripping traps receiving a hearing. Like the caught dog, it is dead without having had a chance to have its voice heard.
Senate File 452 and House File 456, authored by State Senator Charles Wiger (DFL-43) and State House Assistant Majority Leader John Ward (DFL-10A) respectively, would place limitations on where traps could be placed, with the goal of lessening the likelihood that dogs could be caught. Specifically, the bills would require that body-gripping traps be set at least five feet above the ground, submerged underwater (such as in public waters, streams, or wetlands), or otherwise placed in a manner that would protect dogs from inadvertent trapping, as determined by the rules of the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.
According to John Reynolds, Founder of Dog Lovers for Safe Trapping Minnesota, “Fur prices are high, bringing out a flood of new inexperienced trappers who can set body grip traps where current regulations allow. In Minnesota, that means traps can be legally set on the ground in highway ditches, at public landings, near wildlife management parking lots, in driveway culverts, on hunting lands and on hunter-hiking trails. If the bills die, so will a lot of dogs. Last year’s regulations developed by the legislature and the Minnesota Trappers Association did not protect dogs from being killed in body grip-traps and many more dogs have been killed.”
Body-gripping traps are typically used by Minnesota trappers to capture raccoons and bobcats. By law, body-gripping traps are not required to be checked more than once every three days. In contrast, because other types of traps are not considered “quick kill” and, with the exception of very small rat-type traps, are required by law to be checked on a daily basis because it is inhumane to allow the trapped animal to suffer alive for more than one day. Body-gripping traps provide an alternative for hunters who are unwilling or unable to check their traps on a daily basis.
House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee Chair David Dill (DFL-) has been very frank with regard to his unwillingness to grant HF 456 a hearing. In a March 1, 2013 interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dill was quoted as saying, "I don't want anything in a bill that gets to the House floor that has anything to do with trapping or anything to do with guns.” The article goes on to explain, “Any bill dealing with trapping, Dill reasoned, could be targeted with an amendment to end, suspend or limit wolf trapping. Another bill already would do that, but Dill said it won't pass out of his committee to the House floor.”
“We’re not going to give up,” says Reynolds. “The question is, how long is it going to take, and how many dogs are going to needlessly die while we wait to pass laws to protect them? At least twenty Minnesota dogs were killed in body grip traps in 2012. My own Penni was killed on December 17, 2011.”