A rightfully concerned Richmond resident contacted the City Animal Shelter. A cat was in their yard, hobbled by what appeared to be a leghold trap.
When the cat, whom we’ve named Hero, was brought to the Shelter, we saw that it was indeed caught in and maimed by the barbaric trap that is, astonishingly, still legal in Canada.
While it is illegal in British Columbia to use a leghold trap that has teeth or other projections that can bite into an animal’s skin and bone, you may be surprised to find that, despite years of activism against them, leghold traps remain legal if they have rubber, laminated or other less invasive interfaces with the animal.
Hero was quickly transferred to the RAPS Animal Hospital, our not-for-profit veterinary facility, where it was necessary to amputate the lower part of one of his rear legs.
As is so often the case, the natural resilience of animals means Hero was up and active within a few days, adapting to his new situation as if it were entirely natural.
But it’s not natural. No animal should ever experience the inhumanity of a leghold trap.
Our best guess is that someone has a problem with raccoons or some other wild animal invading their garden or shed or otherwise causing inconvenience. Of course, whether the “pest” got into your garbage, your garden shed or your attic, there is no excuse for the cruelty of a leghold trap. But here is the irony: If, as we suspect, the trap was set by someone trying to get rid of a pesky raccoon, they were doing exactly the wrong thing.
Whether the issue is rats, raccoons, coyotes or any other wild animal, preventing unfortunate interactions depends on us humans. These animals are not invading our housing; we have taken over theirs. If we don’t want them rearranging our garbage, upending our organic recycling, munching on the grass seed we left in the shed over winter or climbing into our cellars or attics, there is only one way to prevent it: take responsible actions to prevent this from happening.
These wild animals spend most of their waking hours scouring for the next meal for themselves and their offspring. If your yard is a buffet, they’re going to make it an all-you-can-eat.
Keep pet food inside at all times. Put your garbage and recycling out only the morning of pickup and keep it tightly covered at all times. Keep your garden compost covered. “Pest”-proof your outbuildings: Garden sheds often have tiny holes that you think are too small for a mouse but even a rat can squeeze through a gap the size of a coin. Keep your barbecue clean and covered.
While raccoons, coyotes and other wild animals are beautiful and fascinating, they should not be made to feel welcome in your yard. If you see them, make yourself large. Clap your hands. Above all, don’t actively feed them or allow any access to foods.
The tragedy of Hero’s story could have been far worse. He was fortunate to be found and to have received excellent medical treatment at the RAPS Animal Hospital.
He is now in a loving foster home, has a voracious appetite and is engaged in purring as a full-time occupation. Another animal might have gone off into a remote area and died. And all this is to say nothing of what could have happened if a child had stumbled upon the trap.
Wild animals are not enemies to be conquered. They are neighbours to be treated respectfully and carefully. There are ways to deal with problematic animals—wildlife control companies humanely deal with these issues every day.
Setting traps to capture or kill wildlife—especially when the only reason they are hanging out in the first place is because we have carelessly provided them a food source—is inhumane and unnecessary.
It is our responsibility to take the few, easy steps to prevent the problems in the first place.
Julie Desgroseillers is manager of the RAPS-run City of Richmond Animal Shelter.