US House of Representatives Takes Action to Protect Animals From Cruel Traps on National Wildlife Refuges

Washington, DC—Yesterday, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced legislation to end the use of brutal traps on furbearing animals within federal wildlife refuges.  H.R. 3710, the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act, which was submitted with a total of 35 original co-sponsors, helps to restore the original intent of the National Wildlife Refuge System by placing a ban on the use of cruel body-gripping traps within the refuge system.

"The use of cruel body-gripping traps on animals living on public lands is shameful," said Lowey. "It is inexcusable that steel jaw leg-hold traps and similarly barbaric mechanisms are still permitted for use in National Wildlife Refuges. It is time end this brutal practice once and for all."

Currently, animals living within National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) are at risk of falling victim to body-gripping traps where they may be tortured for hours or days—struggling to be free of the long-drawn-out pain inflicted on them by the traps.  More than half of our country’s refuges currently allow trapping using steel jaw leg-hold traps, Conibear traps and snares.  Steel jaw leg-hold traps are designed to restrain the animal by the leg, and some animals who are caught may chew off their own limb to escape on three legs.  Conibear traps are designed to crush the animal’s spinal column for a quick kill. However, the trap often misses and clamps down on the chest or pelvis, crushing bones and causing the animal excruciating pain and prolonged death. Snares are among the oldest form of trap, a simple noose made of thin wire, which tightens around an animal's neck or body as they struggle to get away.

Federal legislation is needed to stop this barbaric practice, currently allowed on more than half of our nation’s 550 refuges. These inhumane traps have been banned or severely restricted in 89 other nations and in 8 states throughout the United States. According to a 1989 study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Damage Control division, such traps are indiscriminate and on average take 10.8 non-target animals for each trapped target animal. Referred to as “trash” animals by the trapper, non-target wildlife often are simply thrown away. Non-target animals that may be caught include raptors, songbirds, and deer.

“The Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act is a critical step toward reducing the suffering inflicted on our nation’s wildlife and is a legislative priority for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI),” said Cathy Liss, AWI President.  Liss further added, “The Animal Welfare Institute applauds Congresswoman Lowey for her leadership in this effort.”  H.R. 3710 was referred to the US House Committee on Natural Resources where the language will be reviewed by committee staff.