by Wayne Pacelle

The worldwide movement against the dreaded steel-jaw legholdtrap received a major boost when California voters overwhelminglyapproved a statewide ballot measure to ban the use of steel-jawleghold traps and to restrict the use of other body-gripping traps.In a campaign where the proponents and opponents cumulativelyspent $2 million, voters handily approved Proposition 4, whichseverely restricts the use of leghold traps of any variety, outlawsthe use of snares and Conibears for recreation or commerce infur, and forbids the use of two poisons – Compound 1080 andsodium cyanide – used by US Department of Agriculture fieldpersonnel engaged in killing coyotes.

California becomes, then, the fourth state since 1994 to passa ballot measure banning cruel traps, joining Arizona, Colorado,and Massachusetts.

On the downside, Alaska voters overwhelmingly defeated a measure,Proposition 9, that would have outlawed the use of snares forkilling wolves. The killing of wolves, encouraged by the AlaskaDepartment of Fish and Game and by privately funded bounties,has provoked national outrage. Massive wolf kills by "saturationsnaring" (the placement of dozens of cruel wire snares inunderbrush) are decimating whole families.

Nationwide, voters decided 11 ballot measures which had majorimplications for animals. They sided with animal advocates inseven of 11 campaigns, continuing a major series of successfulstatewide ballot campaigns since 1990.

For their first time ever, voters directly decided whethercockfighting should be legal. Voters in Arizona and Missouri overwhelminglyapproved propositions to outlaw the gruesome and barbaric practiceof cockfighting, in which roosters are drugged and fitted withmetal knives on their legs to fight to the death. Arizonans approvedthe cockfighting ban by a 68 percent majority, while Missourivoters approved a similar measure by 63 percent. Only three statesnow permit this archaic practice – Louisiana, New Mexico,and Oklahoma.

In addition to banning cruel traps, Californians passed a separatemeasure, Proposition 6, to ban commercial sale of horses for humanconsumption. Nearly 60 percent of voters favored that measure.In recent years, the media have widely reported the inhumane treatmentof horses transported and slaughtered in the United States andthen shipped to foreign markets for sale for human consumption.

Animal advocates suffered a major setback in Ohio where votersturned away a measure to restore the state's long-standing protectionsfor mourning doves by a three to two margin. Hunting and gun industrygroups spent $3 million on the campaign, out-spending dove protectorsby a factor of eight. Their remarkably deceptive advertising campaign,falsely argued that the plainly worded measure was a first stepto ban all animal research and farming! Dove advocates did nothave enough funds to counter their farfetched allegations.

Other bad news came in Minnesota and Utah, whose voters approvedmeasures referred to the ballot by all state legislatures to protecthunting and trapping. Animal protectors were decidedly outspent-fiveto one in Minnesota and 12 to one in Utah.

Between 1940 and 1990, voters sided with animal advocates ononly one statewide ballot measure. Since 1990, voters have sidedwith animal protectors on 17 campaigns – a startling turnaroundand an indication of an emerging social consciousness about animalsand a developing political sophistication for out social movement.

Wayne Pacelle is the Senior Vice President, Communications& Government Affairs, for The Humane Society of the UnitedStates.


By starring in the Pets and Wildlife-California's Vote YESon Proposition 4 campaign commercial, a maimed dog helped convincevoters to ban the steel-jaw leghold trap.

While driving along a California interstate last June, JenniferVan Ness spotted an injured dog. She tried to coax the dog intoher car, but to no avail. The terrified canine retreated intoa wildlife corridor, built to allow wildlife to pass safely underhighways. Jennifer returned day after day, leaving food, water,and a warm blanket when the pup proved too scared to go to her.

Jennifer enlisted the help of OfficerTodd Lurie of the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley to catchthe badly wounded dog. Upon Lurie's close investigation of thearea, the extent of the poor animal's horrific ordeal became evident.Lurie found the remains of the dog's leg clamped in a steel-jawleghold trap. It was obvious that he had chewed off his leg toescape the agony of the steeljaw leghold trap. Luckily, Luriewas able to catch the dog in a box trap to take him to a veterinarian.

After extensive surgery, the unfortunate dog recovered, albeitmissing his left hind leg. He also found a home. Jennifer decidedthat she and Dillon – as the three-legged dog is now known– were meant to be together.

AWI Quarterly Fall/Winter 1998/1999, Volume 47/48,No. 4/1 p. 4

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