An open letter to dog, cat owners

Last week my wife was walking our dog along the rural road by our house, as she has done for the last 30 years with our dogs over the years. Jaxon, our English cocker, scented something and went bounding off into the brush.

Almost immediately, she heard horrendous squealing and found our dog was caught in a trap not 20 yards off the road. In panic, she could not release Jax from the trap, which was clamped down solid on his neck with only an inch separating the jaws.

She did not have her phone and had to run a 1/4-mile back to our house to get me and call for help.

I grabbed a crowbar and a pliers and when arriving at the trap saw Jaxon lying still and quiet, my worst fear. Thankfully, he was still alive. I tried to open the trap, Jaxon growled — hope — but then immense frustration, as both my wife and I could not free him from the trap.

My wife called 911 and I rushed home to get a hacksaw. I managed to get the trap sawed through while listening to Jaxon’s teeth breaking while he was attempting to do what he could do to get free. We got him released as the conservation officers arrived and assisted us.

Jaxon survived with only broken teeth, tongue and mouth lacerations. He was extremely lucky his neck wasn’t broken or his airway collapsed. The trapper is being investigated by the DNR for an illegal trap set. Apparently, he had first set this trap legally 4 feet up a tree, but had a bobcat coming in that would not climb to it, so he decided to place it on the ground. The trap was a gripper-type of trap commonly called a Conibear and this was a large one, a 330. These traps were supposedly designed to kill or suffocate instantly but obviously that isn’t always the case.

My point in sharing our experience is twofold. These type of traps should NOT be allowed on dry ground. The 4-foot height requirement was an honest attempt to mitigate the indiscriminate killing of unwanted animals, but I don’t know too many hunting dogs that can’t jump 4 feet to get at food, and cats can obviously climb.

Until the state legislature bans this type of trap on dry ground, we as pet owners should educate ourselves on how to release our animals from these traps.

These traps are not intuitive nor easy to release without the proper tool. There are many good, instructional videos on YouTube. Please access them and have a plan should this happen to you. Or, if you know a trapper, ask them to demonstrate how to open the trap. I know there are people that will say you should always have your dog on leash, but in reality, who hasn’t had their dog get away from them to chase a rabbit or squirrel, and it’s just not practical for hunting dogs to be leashed. And cats climb.

In conclusion, there are more humane, technically advanced traps out there that are available, but they obviously cost more than the $10 variety from Cabela’s or Amazon.

People will always try to skirt game laws, so this needs to be addressed by our Legislature.

The trapping lobby will fight this, but we as pet owners can and should put pressure on our representatives to bring about change.

Until then, please be prepared.


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