Cat Trapper Could Face Jail Sentence
In less than a month, three cats in the New Plymouth, New Zealand, area have been found caught in -- and maimed by -- illegal gin traps. And the person responsible for the crimes could find themselves in jail as a result.
Last week Gordon, a sweet tabby believed to be a stray but known as a "communal" pet around the neighborhood, was found under a car with the trap still around his leg and ended up losing that leg as a result of his injury. This incident took place less than a month after a ginger cat named Sebastian was discovered in a nearby neighborhood with similar wounds.
Then just a few days ago, Julie Haskell's 19-year-old son, Daniel, discovered the family cat, Halley, just outside their home, maimed and weak.
"I found her at 10am. She wouldn't come when I called her so I went over to her and there was a pool of blood," he said.
The Haskells rushed Halley to the vet, who instantly recognized the wound.
"He said it was definitely from a gin trap because of the two broken bones and lacerations from where she tried to pull herself out," Daniel said.
The vet put a cast on Halley's broken leg, but the cat developed gangrene and had to have her leg amputated because of the rampant infection
"It's disgusting. It's horrible. I want to put that person's leg in the trap and see how they like it," said Julie.
"It has to be someone close because she never strays too far. You can call her name and she will be there in 30 seconds," Daniel added.
"The traditional gin trap has been [outlawed under New Zealand's Animal Welfare Act] for two or three years," said Taranaki Regional Council animal and pest manager Steve Ellis.
A gin trap, like other leg-hold traps, is made up of two jaws, one or two springs, and a trigger in the middle which is usually a round pan. When the animal steps on the trigger the trap closes around the foot, preventing the animal from escaping. They are typically used to catch beavers, mink, otters and muskrats, but humane groups have long decried the traps because of the frequency with which "unintentional" prey such as cats and dogs are caught in them.
Tauranga SPCA education officer Nicolle Smith condemned the use of the illegal leg-hold gin traps, describing them as "absolutely inhumane."
"Whoever set them needs to understand the pain and suffering they put the cats through," Smith said.
Laying one of the banned traps carried penalties of up to six months' imprisonment, or a fine of up to $25,000 NZ ($19,400 US), said SPCA animal welfare inspector Jason Blair. The most severe offenses, however, can net up to three years in jail or a fine of up to $75,000 NZ ($58,000 US).
Julie Haskell said there were a large number of cats in the Glen Avon area, and pleaded for the owner of the trap to stop using it.
"It's cost us [hundreds of dollars] so far. There are so many other cats around and I don't want other people having to deal with this," she said.
"We're appealing to the public for any information they have relating to this case, or even if they know about someone who is using these traps," Blair said.