Missouri Trapper Shoots Dogs Caught in Leghold Traps

On the morning of Feb. 6, 2005, Marcela Egea did something she had done every morning for several years. She let Bubba and Savannah, her English Mastiffs, outside for a run on her 41-acre property in Belton, Miss. Approximately 20 minutes later, Egea and her boyfriend overheard the dogs yelping and a series of gun shots. The terrifying discovery that followed is one no dog owner should ever have to endure.

Egea found her two dogs dead in a creek just 10 feet beyond her property line. They had been shot, killed and pushed into the creek by local game trapper Michael Kartman after they were caught in leghold traps he set to catch beavers and otters. While Kartman claims both dogs were caught in his traps, only Bubba was found with a trap attached to one of his paws.

Kartman claims he shot each of the dogs multiple times because they acted aggressively when he attempted to free them from the traps, yet he has also been quoted by the Kansas City Star as saying he shot the dogs because they were interfering with his business. He admits he could have gone to nearby homes to find the owner of the dogs, but he opted not to do so because it would have taken too much time and he had several hours of trap checking left to do.

The incident is still under investigation, but Kartman has only been charged with two conservation misdemeanors to date. He received one citation for failing to label his traps with his name and address, as required by Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations, and another for littering the creek bank. Kartman left behind the carcasses of a skunk, two possums and a small raccoon he had also caught in his traps and subsequently shot; trappers generally refer to such animal pelts with little or no economic value as "trash."

The trapping of domestic animals in leghold traps is not uncommon. Because such traps do not discriminate among their victims, they can catch any animal who triggers them. Once caught, the jaws of the leghold trap can cause the trapped animal to suffer bone crushing injuries and sometimes even death. Some animals will escape by chewing off a trapped limb, while those unable to escape remain at the mercy of their captors.

The Society for Animal Protective Legislation has lobbied vigorously to ban the use of these inhumane devices, and it will continue to do so. While 88 nations worldwide and eight states in our country have passed laws outlawing or severely limiting the use of leghold traps, federal legislation in the United States has yet to be enacted. We anticipate a bill to end the use of leghold traps will soon be reintroduced into Congress.

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