State ban sought on animal leg traps


Contending that the devices are barbaric and cruel, animal rights activists and some legislators are trying to ban the use of steel leg-hold traps used to capture wild animals.

Del. Barbara Frush, a Prince George's County Democrat, has proposed a statewide ban on the trap that snaps around an animal's leg and holds it until a person arrives.

The trapper then either kills the animal -- usually by beating it -- or releases it, Frush said.

The traps are illegal in Columbia and Montgomery, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. They also are prohibited from use within 150 yards of any building or occupied structure.

"This bill is not about hunting or trapping," Frush told the House Environmental Matters Committee. "This is a bill about a device that is painful and causes a great deal of harm to animals."

To prove her point, Frush set up several traps -- which are banned in at least six states and 81 countries -- on the floor of a committee room. The delegate also showed a video of an injured fox caught in a trap at a Howard County golf course.

"Basically, a steel leg-hold trap works by crushing whatever part of the animal's body is captured," said Leslie Sinclair, a veterinarian from Columbia who testified in support of the ban.

But opponents of the bill argued that the traps are not inhumane because they do not hurt the animals. They also argued the traps are an integral part of the state's efforts to control some species.

James Campbell, a Calvert County trapper, said the traps are essential if he is to continue his hobby. Campbell said he caught hundreds of animals last year and has rarely seen one injured by a trap.

"If they are in such excruciating pain, how come they can be there taking a nap when I approach?" Campbell asked.

Paul Peditto, director of wildlife and heritage for the Department of Natural Resources, also testified against the proposal.

Peditto showed a video of a DNR employee using a leg trap to catch an otter on the Eastern Shore. The otter was released unharmed in Garrett County.

"There has never been a fur-bearing population exterminated from the planet by regulated trapping," Peditto said.

Last year, DNR remained neutral on a similar measure that was defeated by the General Assembly. The agency's opposition this year signals a shift in policy under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has pledged to be more receptive to sportsmen.

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