The conibear body gripping trap is designed to instantly kill by breaking the neck or back of an animal. It often doesn’t, and victims suffer greatly before they die. It is also not selective—birds, endangered species, and even companion animals have been caught and killed.
The use of these traps was dealt a legal blow when the Circuit Court for the 19th Judicial Circuit in Lake County, Illinois ruled in favor of Rich Poska and family in a lawsuit regarding the tragic incidental trapping and killing of their companion dog, Rupert. As reported in the Winter 2009 AWI Quarterly, Rupert was brutally killed in a Conibear trap set for muskrats near the White Deer Golf Course in Vernon Hills, Illinois.
Represented by attorney Tracy McGonigle, a member and former chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, the Poskas subsequently sued both the golf course and the trapper whom the golf course engaged to trap and kill muskrats in and around the course. Ultimately, the trapper defaulted by failing to appear in court and was found liable on all counts and ordered to pay a judgement to the Poskas. Pursuant to the Humane Care for Animals Act, punitive damages were imposed.
After the court denied the golf course’s motion to dismiss the “negligence,” “negligent infliction of emotional distress,” and “strict liability” claims brought against it, the course agreed to settle out of court with the Poskas. By allowing the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim to survive, the court recognized, at least at a preliminary pleading stage, a new cause of action arising from the loss of a pet. The Poskas have also vowed to do what they can to get these traps banned.