Group calls for the banning of animal snares

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 10, 2016

Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk, right, and Atlantic Canada representative Elizabeth Schoales look over trapping regulations outlined in P.E.I.’s Wildlife Conservation Act following a meeting with Environment Minister Robert Mitchell on Monday.

©MITCH MACDONALD/THE GUARDIAN

A national animal rights group is aiming to make trapping in P.E.I. a practice of the past.

Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of the non-profit Animal Justice, said the group is pushing the provincial government to ban trapping and snaring on the grounds of being inhumane.

Labchuk and Elizabeth Schoales, Atlantic Canada representative for Animal Justice, met with Environment Minister Robert Mitchell, who is also responsible for wildlife, Monday afternoon for nearly an hour.

This year has seen some public outcry over trapping regulations after several incidents of pets being caught in snares.

However, Labchuk said the practice is cruel towards all wildlife and should be abandoned completely.

"It really is unacceptable in our modern society," said Labchuk. "It's heartbreaking... animals suffer painful injuries and die slowly."

While there was no resolution from the meeting, Labchuck said she and Schoales were glad to bring the issue to the forefront and will continue to pressure government.

"They know we're here to stay," said Schoales, who was also prepared with a list of trapping guidelines from the province's Wildlife Conservation Act.

Apart from the chance of family pets getting accidentally trapped, the two said that currently accepted snares can still see a wild animal stay alive for up to five minutes after being caught.

"And that's what is accepted," said Labchuk. "It's extremely inhumane."

P.E.I. has an active snaring season for coyote and foxes from the middle of November to the end of January.

While trappers can get permission to use private land, current regulations state that trappers must have baited snares on public land at least 300 metres away from the nearest home.

There were about 130 licensed trappers in P.E.I. this season, a number which is on the decline due to the low price of furs.

Mitchell said the issue has come to light during the past two months after several incidents of family pets being caught in traps around Christmas.

One of those incidents created a buzz of public reaction after a pet dog was killed in a baited snare in Riverdale on Boxing Day.

In early December, another dog died after being snared in Murray River.

He said Monday's meeting went well and that he believes any future regulations would come from a collaborative approach between the department, trappers and the public.

While Labchuk and Schoales were looking for a complete ban, Mitchell said department officials are already looking at possibly changing current regulations since the Boxing Day incident.

"To ensure they're as strong as they could be and need to be," said Mitchell. "I've asked them to look at other jurisdictions to make sure there's nothing else being done that we could implement. And, of course, they're looking at any access issues."

Mitchell said he expects to hear back from those department officials with recommendations within three to four months.

"Trapping on P.E.I. is very heavily regulated at this point in time," said Mitchell. "(Trappers) certainly don't want any conflict with pet owners .... Those situations are extremely unfortunate so we're looking at anything we can do to improve the situation.

In the meantime, Labchuk encouraged others to let the province know how they feel on the issue.

"Keep up the pressure and tell government we need to ban this."