Sechelt resident Vicki Starfire will never forget the sound of her Brittany Spaniel’s painful howls on that chilly spring day this past March. The pair were out for a walk when the curious dog, Sammie, wandered into the woods. Shortly after, something went terribly wrong.
Sammie started howling in pain and Starfire, following the sounds of her dog, frantically rushed into the woods to find her companion struggling in a leg-hold trap. The horrific trap was too powerful for her to open, but using her cellphone she called 911 and the operator quickly put her in touch with a conservation officer.
Officer Murray Smith showed up on the scene, and while Starfire held Sammie down with a blanket to prevent her from biting, the officer was able to pry the jaws of the trap open. Once free, the dog was rushed to the veterinarian and treated for her injuries.
After the story of Sammie broke in the local news, residents on the Sunshine Coast wanted answers. Why were traps being used? Why were no warning signs posted? Who was responsible? Weren’t leg-hold traps banned years ago?
While no laws were broken, Starfire, a local resident, and myself on behalf of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, took these concerns straight to the Town of Gibsons, the District of Sechelt, and the Sunshine Coast Regional District.
Our message? Traps are dangerous and inhumane. Ban leg-hold, Conibear, and snare traps!
So, after one old-fashioned town hall meeting and presentations to the mayors and councils of Gibsons and Sechelt, and to the SCRD, momentum is now quickly building to outlaw trapping.
Councillors in Gibsons were very receptive to our message and after seeing the traps close up, they seemed truly horrified. Mayor Barry Janyk even commented, “These things look like they are right out of the Dark Ages.” At the end of our meeting, the council of Gibsons directed their staff to come back with a report about various options and a proposed draft of a bylaw to ban traps.
Sechelt council also seemed receptive to our message and they too directed their staff to come back with a report about the possibility of a trap ban.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District, however, was a bit more difficult.
Trapping is regulated provincially, but the under the Community Charter, any municipality has the authority to enact bylaws concerning, without limitation, animals; the natural environment; and the health, safety, and protection of persons and property. While this applies to Gibsons and Sechelt, the SCRD is not a municipality and therefore questions arose regarding whether they have the authority to ban trapping.
However, overall, the board of the SCRD seemed receptive to our message and they agreed they would be interested in lobbying the province of British Columbia to ask for an exception under the law, or for permission to regulate trapping themselves. Staff will submit a report in the coming weeks with more information on what options are available. We remain hopeful that the SCRD will be able to ban trapping.
We couldn’t be more proud of all of the great efforts that are being made on the Sunshine Coast to ban trapping. If successful, the Sunshine Coast would be the largest area in Canada to have a trapping ban!
Currently, there are only a handful of other places that have banned or restricted trapping:
District of North Vancouver
Effective: December 18, 1978
Leg-hold and killing traps (Conibear and snares), and poison are prohibited within the boundaries of the District of North Vancouver.
District of North Cowichan
Effective: January 18, 1979
Leg-hold and snare traps are prohibited within the municipality.
City of Coquitlam
Effective: July 3, 1979
No person (including a firm or corporation) may use a leg-hold trap within the boundaries of Coquitlam.
City of Victoria
Effective: date not available
No person may set or use a leg-hold trap.
District of North Saanich
Effective: December 1998
No leg-hold or snare traps are permitted within the boundaries of North Saanich.
Our association would like to thank to everyone on the Sunshine Coast who worked hard to raise awareness about this important issue. We would also like to thank all of those people who signed the petitions calling for a trap ban (over 1,500 signatures were collected in just three weeks!) and to the various mayors and councillors for taking the safety concerns and the cruelty of trapping to heart.
Lesley Fox is the executive director of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, a nonprofit animal-protection organization based in Burnaby.