Legislation to Ban Brutal and Indiscriminate Body-Gripping Traps Reintroduced

Close-up of a river otter looking off to the left
Photo from Flickr by Eric Kilby

Washington, DCThe Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act was reintroduced last Friday in the House of Representatives by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC). This bill would prohibit the import and export of, as well as interstate commerce in, two of the most notorious types of body-gripping traps—steel-jaw leghold traps and Conibear (also known as kill-type) traps.

Body-gripping traps are used to trap and kill millions of animals each year in the United States. Due to their nonselective nature, Conibear and steel-jaw leghold traps injure not only the wildlife species sought by trappers for their pelts, but also a wide array of unintended victims, including endangered and threatened species, companion animals, and even people.

Introduction of the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act was spurred in part by a horrific incident that occurred just outside Adams’ district in North Carolina. In 2015, a 12-year-old boy was injured by a Conibear trap when he was playing near a pond in his neighborhood. It took a team of six doctors and several hours in the emergency room to pry the boy’s arm free from the trap’s metal jaws.

Steel-jaw leghold traps have been condemned as inhumane by the World Veterinary Association, the National Animal Care and Control Association, and the American Animal Hospital Association. They operate by slamming shut with bone-crushing force on the limb of any animal who trips the device. Left in agony for long periods without food or water, victims may chew off their own trapped limb to escape. Conibear traps are intended to break or crush an animal’s spinal column but, as with other body-gripping traps, their efficacy and accuracy are unreliable. These devices may not quickly kill the animal, and instead result in injuries and prolonged suffering.

“As fall trapping season gets underway, the reintroduction of the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act could not be more timely,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “Torturing animals by breaking their bones, crushing tissue and organs, and keeping them pinned in powerful metal jaws is not acceptable, and it’s time to evolve beyond such archaic methods of capturing wildlife. We strongly endorse Representative Adams’ bill to curtail the use of body-gripping traps.”

“Today, I’m reintroducing the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act. We cannot afford to ignore the danger posed by antiquated body-gripping traps,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Wildlife, pets, and people are placed in harm’s way whenever these violent traps are around. I am proud to reintroduce this important piece of legislation to protect our wildlife and our families.”

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.