Leg-Hold Trap Nearly Kills Cat

 |  Sep 12th 2011  |   6 Contributions


Veterinarian Stephen Kinney holds a cat that was caught in a leg-hold trap. Photo by Andrew Cullen, <em>Lewiston Sun Journal.</em>

If somebody hadn't noticed the sweet orange cat near a department store in Lewiston, Maine, he would have died.

The cat's right front paw was caught in a leg-hold trap, and he'd apparently been there for a while.

It took four days for animal control officers to catch the cat, but they finally got him — presumably because he was so weak from hunger, dehydration, and a raging infection in the wound the horrific trap had inflicted. They rushed the cat to a nearby animal clinic, where veterinarian Stephen Kinney set to work to save its life.

When the cat arrived at his clinic, Kinney said, the wound was seething with maggots and smelled gangrenous. He amputated the cat's leg at the shoulder because otherwise the kitty would have tried to walk on the stump.

Although the little guy has since recovered and has been placed for adoption at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, I'm furious that he even had to endure such cruelty. And I'm even angrier because it was illegal for the trap to be there in the first place!

These are leg-hold traps. They look like medieval torture devices.

First, it's not trapping season in Maine.

Second, according to Maine's trapping rules, leg-hold traps are forbidden within half a mile of the built-up section of any city or town. If you're going to trap in those areas, you have to use a cage trap.

And finally, the "person" who set the trap should have been checking it at least once a day to make sure no animal was caught in it. The fact that the cat suffered in that torture device for days is nothing short of abuse.

This isn't the first time a domestic animal has been caught in a trap designed to catch "varmints" like raccoons, foxes, and skunks. The website Ban Cruel Traps says that trappers admit that for every "target" animal trapped, at least two other "nontarget" animals get caught in this cruel device.

Okay, look — I live in Maine. It's a rural state with a high poverty rate. I understand the traditions of hunting and trapping, and I understand that if it weren't for hunting and trapping, a lot of families would go hungry. We all gotta make a living and we all gotta eat.

I don't like trapping, I don't approve of it, and I wish people didn't do it — but I'm not going to stare down my nose from my comfortable perch on my high horse and demand that trapping be banned forever and ever, amen.

But I will say this: If you're going to trap, you have a moral obligation to check your traps at least once a day and you have a legal obligation to abide by the rules set forth in local statutes.

I don't care how hungry you are: You've still got to do the right thing: not just for the wildlife that will suffer and die in your traps if you neglect them, but for the collateral damage caused when pets and endangered animals are caught in those traps.

I have no idea whether the authorities will ever find the individual who set this trap and what kind of punishment he or she will get for the doubly illegal activities of trapping out of season and placing a leg-hold trap too close to a town. I suspect it would be nothing more than a judicial slap on the wrist — and that aggravates me, too. Along with those in almost every other state, Maine's animal cruelty laws need to be changed. Animal cruelty should be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony, and sentences for those found guilty need to be a lot harsher. Trappers who neglect their traps should also face animal cruelty charges.

This sweet orange cat, who was clearly used to being around people because he was purring and head-bumping the vet as soon as his pain was under control, survived thanks to a sharp-eyed passerby, Lewiston's animal control officers, and the skills of a veterinarian. I hope he has found a wonderful home where he can stay safely indoors from now on. And I hope animal lovers will realize that a lot of other critters aren't so lucky — and act to stop the senseless cruelty caused by illegal and neglected traps.

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