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MN 2015 body-gripping trapping bill will help to protect dogs!

posted Mar 4, 2015, 10:38 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Feb 27, 2017, 12:15 PM ]
This year's body-gripping trapping-regulation bill to protect dogs is SF 1325 / HF 1655

As requested by signers of the Petition to Stop Killing MN Dogs and the Petition for Safe Public Lands.

Update, 5/18/2015:

As expected (in the realm of GOP politics) this MN House  bill HF 1655 was denied a hearing or vote.

Although this MN Senate bill SF 1325 passed all of its committee hearings two months before the end of the legislative session, it was not scheduled for a floor vote. 

The scheduling of a Senate floor vote is the responsibility of Senate leadership, specifically Sen. Tom Bakk, a lifetime member of the Minnesota Trappers Association, and an opponent of the bill.

This was just one of the procedural tricks that was played by Sen. Bakk this session, interfering with the open and transparent operation of State government, and misusing the power of "leadership" in order to prevent the passage of popular legislation. 

It's not supposed to work this way. Good legislation like this, reasonable and popular, is supposed to move through the system on fair votes, and if it passes, become law--whether a few, entrenched legislators like it or not.

Similar story (no MN Senate floor vote) for the "road & trail buffer bill" SF 1070, which had been included in the Game & Fish Bill, SF 1303. Due to political game-playing by a few MN legislators in key positions, the Game & Fish Bill was not scheduled for a floor vote. Instead, a few selected pieces of it were picked out and inserted into what had been an Environment & Natural Resources finance bill (which then became the "omnibus Agriculture, Environment, & Natural Resources policy and finance bill," HF 846, a long mess of deal-making and questionable procedure).


Update: 3/19/2015


The bill was passed by the MN Senate Judiciary Committee as improved on 3/19/2015. This was the final committee hearing, so the bill will now be forwarded to the floor of the MN Senate for the big vote (schedule not yet determined).

Thanks to the technical improvements by the MN DNR Division of Enforcement and by the Judiciary Committee, the bill is now better and stronger than ever!


Update: 3/17/2015


The "DogLovers" bill SF 1325 was passed (as amended by the author) by the MN Senate Environment & Energy Committee on 3/17/2015. That's the bill's First Engrossment.

The meeting was heavily attended by a gathering of burly, male trappers on two sides of the room--and a diverse group of dog lovers on the third!

The bill and previous testimony from the first hearing are described below. 

Several of the Legal Challenges and their Possible Resolutions described below were discussed. Bob Meier, MN DNR Assistant Commissioner, is rolling up his sleeves to resolve these problems!



First hearing: MN Senate Fish & Wildlife Subcommittee, 3/9/2015.


Second hearing: MN Senate Environment & Energy Committee, 3/17/2015.


Update 3/9/2015

SF 1325 was amended and laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus Game & Fish Bill in the 3/9/2015 meeting of the MN Senate Fish & Wildlife Subcommittee. (On 3/10/2015 it was given independent status--a bill in its own right, not a part of the Game & Fish Bill--and forwarded to the MN Senate Environment & Energy Committee).

Testimonies by dog owners were, at once, to the point and filled with the emotion people have for their dogs. Rosie Nordby wrote in with the touching story of the death of her dog Lily, asking questions like the ones every dog owner asks when they hear about this bill and wonder why this form of trapping is still legal: "How could someone set a trap so close to our house?" For others, the question might be "...so close to our road?" "... where we go grouse hunting?" "... where we run our dog?"

MN DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr spoke in support of the bill.

Representatives of the Minnesota Trappers Association and the Minnesota Forest Zone Trappers Association repeated their old arguments, attempting to minimize the problem; expressing their continued faith in Trapper Education and the goodwill of skilled, responsible trappers; complaining that the bill would place too great a burden on trappers to take precautions to avoid killing people's dogs, and to report their incidental capture and killing of people's dogs; claiming that it's too hard to catch, for example, raccoons above ground; etc. They even tried the old, ploy of trying to say that the bill would prevent the trapping of household rodents and underground yard pests (it would not--those animals are not protected by the fish & game laws). Some of it was okay--it's okay to complain about having to adapt to other methods--but most of it was either only partially supportable or ridiculously unsupportable.

A video excerpt of the hearing of SF 1325 is included on this page, above. It begins at about 1:25:05 in the full video recording.. The full video recording of the hearing of all four trapping-related bills is available on the MN Senate Media Services web page. 

The testimonies of the dog owners are touching. In stark contrast, the testimonies of the trappers' association spokesmen are consistently self-centered, with a quality range from accurate to deceptive. There's been a thought to make a list of the falsehoods and fallacies that were presented by the trappers' spokesmen, but it's a daunting task. 



What the bill would do:

The bill would set the following trapping regulations:

1) Restrict, as follows, the uses of medium to large-size body-gripping traps (i.e. between 5-1/2 inches and 7-1/2 inches, in other words larger than Duke #160 and smaller than a #280) on public and private lands and waters:

a) completely submerged in water; or

b) in an elevated enclosure with a top opening at least 4 feet above ground or snowpack, sized 50 sq. in. or less, with a trap recess 12-inches or more from the opening; or

c) in an enclosure with a top or side opening 25 sq. in. or less and a trap recess 12-inches or more from the opening; or

d) in an unbaited enclosure with an opening no more than 4 inches above ground and a trap recess 18-inches or more from the opening, at least 20 feet from bait; or

e) at least 5 feet above the ground.

2) Require written permission to set traps or snares on private property.

3) Require the reporting of incidental catches of pets and companion animals in traps.

4) Revoke a trapper's license for killing a pet or companion animal in an illegally-set body-gripping trap or snare.


Paper models to illustrate the specified enclosures.
Paper models to illustrate the specified trap enclosures, a 2'4" tall dog, and a 5'6" tall trapper. Scale: 2 inches = 1 foot..

What the bill would not do: 
  • Would not provide for MN DNR rulemaking to authorize other dog-proof body-gripping trapping methods.
  • Would not protect dogs from lethal snaring (would not require cable restraints on land).



Legal challenges (numbered as above):
  • 1a) Although completely-submerged watersets work well in many situations, there are technical problems in other situations.
  • 1b, 1c, 1d) Bobcat trappers would no longer be able to use body-gripping traps.
  • 1d) Raccoon trappers would no longer be able to use "blind" (see-through) sets.
  • 1b, 1d) Some trappers don't want to use (or aren't able to set) traps above ground. Most don't like the added visibility.
  • 2) It would be a logistical challenge for large, non-resident landowners (e.g. logging and paper companies) to deliver written permission to trappers.
  • 3) As drafted (although not as intended), the reporting requirement is overly broad; it could conceivably apply to cases in which people caught pet rats in rat traps.
  • 4) (no specific legal challenge).
Possible resolutions of the legal changes (numbered as above):
  • 1a) Trappers who currently use half-submerged #220 body-gripping traps would switch to other methods including cage traps and snares. Note: this bill would not require completely-submerged #280s and #330s.
  • 1b, 1c, 1d) Bobcat trappers who currently use body-gripping traps would switch to other methods including foothold traps, cage traps, and snares (all of these methods are already in use by successful trappers).
  • 1d) Raccoon trappers would switch to other methods including dog-proof raccoon traps, other foothold traps, cage traps, and snares (all of these methods are already in use by successful trappers).
  • 1b, 1d) There are many alternatives to setting traps above ground. In areas where visibility is not a concern, traps above ground are used successfully to trap climbing furbearers including raccoons, fisher, and marten. On private lands and remote public lands, the increased visibility of traps above ground can be an advantage: it can be quicker to check the traps from the road.
  • 2) Large, non-resident landowners would solve the logistical challenge by publishing written permission for public trapping. For example, in a letter like this from UPM Blandin Forestry.
  • 3) If the reporting requirement is overly-broad, it could easily be focused by, for example, requiring reporting only for traps with jaw spreads 4 inches or larger, and for snares. 
    • Update 3/19/2015: the language was focused by the MN Senate Judiciary Committee by changing it from "pet or companion animal" to "dog or collared animal." The language remains, overly broad, however, for animal-control operators who are regularly hired to catch dogs and collared animals in cage traps. Still an unfortunate, unintended feature of the bill.
  • 4) (no specific legal challenge).


Definitions (not included in the bill):

  • Top: above trap.

  • Bottom: below trap.

  • Side: horizontally about 90-degrees from the direction of the trap strike.

  • Front: facing into to the direction of the trap strike, from directly in front.

  • Frontmost: the point on the front of the enclosure that's farthest from the trap.

  • Back: facing in the direction of the trap strike, from behind.

  • Enclosure opening size: area of the opening, measured from a two-dimensional perspective directly facing the opening.


Trap enclosure diagrams



Authors and co-authors:

MN Sen. John A.Hoffman  MN Representative Peter Fischer 
Authors: Minnesota Senator John A. Hoffman and Representative Peter Fischer.

 MN Sen. John Marty  MN_Senator_CharlesWiger  MN_Senator_PatriciaTorresRay  MN_Senator_AliceJohnson
Senate Coauthors: Minnesota Senators John Marty, Charles W. Wiger, Patricia Torres Ray, and Alice M. Johnson.

MN Rep. Alice Hausman
House Coauthors: Minnesota Representative Alice Hausman.