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His defense of modern traps disputes MSPCA’s position

The state’s growing coyote population has raised concerns. The state’s growing coyote population has raised concerns. (File 2005)
November 17, 2011

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I felt compelled to provide a different perspective to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ position regarding trapping and certain “traps,’’ made in a recent letter from the organization’s deputy advocacy director (“MSPCA opposes foothold traps,’’ Globe West, Sept. 3).

I want to address the MSPCA’s statements regarding the coyote incident in Newton and the organization’s position on House Bill 3315, “An act valuing our natural resources.’’

Both beaver and coyote conflicts with people continue to rise and fall with the seasons. Towns, businesses, property owners, and residents across the Commonwealth are experiencing recurring problems that the current law is just not adequately addressing.

There are a number of alternatives to “traditional footholds.’’ However, the MSPCA prefers to refer to these restraints as “steel-jawed legholds’’ for effect, while in fact these traps are designed to hold the animal low on the foot, not the leg. Also, referring to padded foothold restraints as “just old-fashioned traps with a thin band of plastic on the steel jaws’’ trivializes the advancements, international effort and science that have gone into newer models designed to directly address animal welfare.

The MSPCA’s opinion that these devices are “not humane for any animal who steps into them’’ is just that - an opinion based on selective, subjective use of facts, rather than using an objective, reasonable, rational thought process that attempts to understand the issue from perspectives other than their own. If these devices were so “inhumane,’’ wildlife managers would have abandoned them long ago. So the real question may be: Is the trapping device “inhumane,’’ or is it the group’s opinion that the people using them are?

It is quite clear that there are people who are willing and able to implement these new restraint devices in a professional, extremely safe manner, but have no doubt been stymied due to the existing trapping law. The risks to people and their pets are exponentially blown out of proportion - for effect and nothing more.

The current trapping law technically does allow for the use of traps, but towns and municipalities are not clear on the implementation or implications if they were to use them, thus resulting in practically a 100 percent dismissal. The passing of H.3315 would give towns the confidence to look at valid options that do not exist today, to address health and safety issues in an effective, efficient way that does not dismiss the welfare of the animal.

H.3315 would not immediately allow all banned traps for use if made law, as suggested by the MSPCA. What H.3315 will do, if it becomes law, is allow some of these banned devices to be evaluated on their own merits, based on scientific research derived from valid international studies, by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. If some of these devices pass a rigorous examination here in Massachusetts, they may be put on the table for potential regulation by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s board of directors.

H.3315 is not about an attempt to annihilate a species. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. No one has suggested that changing the current trapping law will eliminate coyotes, or any other species for that matter. This is about using a reasonable, balanced approach to management and control of wild populations in a responsible way.

Creating conditions that are not conducive to coyotes setting up in our backyard is important, but a “one-size-fits-all,’’ solely nonlethal, cure-all approach is a simplistic, ineffective way to deal with this complex issue.

Newton residents should be able to look at all reasonable ways to address conflicts effectively, whether they involve nonlethal or lethal approaches, or a combination of both.