Ban the use of leg hold (hand) traps in Illinois.

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For the Love of Rescues, a State Licensed Wildlife Rehabber founded by Lauren Mateja in Illinois, and those of us signed, are asking the State of Illinois to ban the use of leg hold traps, also known as “dog proof” foot hold traps, hand traps, leg or hand “cuff” traps. At this time in Illinois, these traps are legal as long as the person is properly permitted, traps are labeled with the trapper’s information, registered, and checked at least every 24 hours.

These traps are designed to trap and “hold”animals in place and are referred to as a restraining trap. They’re primarily intended for fox, coyote, and raccoons and by trapping animals alive, ensures their fur and hide will be fresh to skin and sell. Some are set on top of the ground covered with brush and others are cylindrical metal “tubes” that are dug into the ground, and then chained into the ground or to a nearby tree. Either way, the animal that accidentally walks into one will suffer greatly. There are several problems, including moral and humane issues, with these traps though.

One of the problems with these traps is the inhumane way in which the animal is trapped. Once triggered, the trap immobilizes the animal, preventing them from eating, caring for their babies, staying hydrated, fending off predators, and sheltering themselves from the elements. Leg-hold traps are designed to hold a wild animal who does not want to be caught and as such, many animals become so desperate, they resort to chewing or wringing off their own trapped limb in order to escape, breaking teeth and bones in the process. The animal endures a painful and panic-filled wait until they either die from exhaustion, blood loss, dehydration, hypothermia, or shock. In cases where the trapper DOES check their traps at least once every 24 hours, they are usually relieved of this pain by being shot, drowned, or by blunt force trauma to the head. If the trapper catches an animal they didn’t intend to trap, they may then release the fatally wounded animal back into the wild to endure a very long and painful death process riddled with fever, lethargy, nausea, sepsis, bone infection, and maggot infestation. If lucky, this animal, of the wild, may make it to the doorstep of a caring human who might find a rehabber or veterinarian in time to save his life, but not his leg. If lucky, this animal, which might be a domestic dog that got loose, may make it home just in time to see his family before he succumbs to his injuries. If lucky, this animal will be just that—an animal, and not a child.

Other problems with the leg hold traps are that they are hidden well, often not being checked at least every 24 hours, are not set by permitted or knowledgeable trappers (there is much, much more to the law than having a “trapper’s license—there are other permits needed, certain times of the year that trapping is allowed, traps need to be further than a certain number of feet from another property, etc), and are oftentimes are not secured to anything leaving the trapped animal to dig the trap up and drag it, and the noisy metal chain, along with it. One of my experiences with these traps is about a man who had his trapper’s license, but did not have his leg hold traps registered or marked, and he was baiting raccoons by placing these hand traps with marshmallows all around his garbage cans. He would then sit and wait for a raccoon to stick his hand down the tube of the trap for a marshmallow. By the way, raccoons “wash” their food and have many times more nerve endings in their hands than we humans do. What they’re doing when they wet and rub an object is “seeing” it; it’s thought that water contact increases a raccoon’s tactile ability. When a raccoon wets and handles a crayfish, stone, worm, or clam, he’s gathering information: nearly two thirds of the sensory data that he’s processing comes from cells that interpret various types of touch sensation. In other words, touch is as important a sense as hearing, smell, and sight. Once the raccoon had his paw and arm snapped by the trap, this man sat in his family room for days at a time, with this raccoon in view of his family room window, and watched it suffer. He repeated this over and over and over again. Until... one day, he came home from work to find his dog’s rear leg broken in the trap. Another scary problem with using these types of traps is the likelihood of catching the wrong animal, an endangered species, or child, and very severely injuring them.

Despite being banned by many countries around the world, as well as some States such as Florida, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Arizona, the leg-hold trap is still legal in every province and territory in Canada as well as the State of Illinois (only leg-holds with 'teeth' have been prohibited). The American Veterinary Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, the World Veterinary Association, the National Animal Control Association and the Sierra Club all oppose the leg-hold trap. (Every adult should know how to open a leg-hold trap in case of an emergency.) APFA has a short video tutorial here of how to open one of these types of traps. We are not asking here that trapping be banned. We are asking that leg hold, foot hold, hand traps, and cuff traps be banned in the State of Illinois.
Here is another link to show how these traps work.