An error in Senator John Carlson's bill SF 2265 made it look like a proposal to make the largest body-gripping traps (models 280 and 330) much more dangerous. He corrected that error at the last minute with his amendment A1, leaving me relieved but not fully prepared to address the now very-different bill. The following are my notes from the evening's committee meeting.
Senator Carlson was surprised when I sat down next to him at the testifying table to oppose his bill. That was very strange, because my name was printed on the meeting agenda as one of two testifiers--one for and one against Senator Carlson's bill SF 2265. I had written to every member of the committee the week before to ask for a hearing of the popular dog-protection bill SF 1736 (Wiger ; Sparks ; McGuire). I had checked in with the committee organizer early, and had been in attendance or available in the lobby for several hours. I had picked up the materials that had been printed for the meeting. How was it that I wasn't informed of the error that Senator Carlson had corrected in his bill the day before?
I had prepared to testify against what had now become only "an unfortunate error."
When it was time for Senator Carlson's bill to be heard, he came to the table with Gary Leistico of the Minnesota Trappers' Association. I waited politely for a cue to join them, but when they began without me, I just took my seat at the table. Sen. Carlson, referring only to "Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee," began by apologizing for the misunderstanding that had been caused by an "unfortunate error" in the drafting of his bill. There was a quick motion, second, and unanimous vote to accept his amendment A1. I wrote down the question "what's A1?" on my notepad while Mr. Leistico delivered his testimony in support of the bill. The amended bill would now add weak, new regulations for 220-size body-gripping traps; but even those weak regulations would not apply to the smaller-size traps, which Mr. Leistico dismissed as "not involved in dog capture," and they would not apply to the larger models that everyone now agreed should remain in use only in watersets (traps set at least half underwater for large furbearers like beavers and otters).
While I listened politely to Mr. Leistico's testimony, I filled my notepad with corrections and questions. Correction: my dog had been killed by one of the smaller-sized traps (which Mr. Leistico had just lightly and falsely dismissed as "not involved in dog capture"). Question: "What's A1?" and "How can a 7" x 7" box opening protect a 6" x 6" dog from a trap?" I think I must have said "I'm relieved" about "A1" several times before the chairman felt the need to remind me that "our time is limited."
I repeated "My dog was killed by a 160" at least twice during my hurried testimony, as I ran through a list of objections to each point of the bill. I expressed my reservations that the "expert testimony" had included only one expert, Mr. Leistico, representing the Minnesota Trappers' Association. But then my time was up.
As a result, the legislation proposed by Senator Carlson and approved by the committee was limited to only one model of body-gripping trap: the 220. The manufacturer's nominal measurements of this model are 7" x 7". However, by the official method of measurement my Duke #220 trap came in at just a little over six inches, so this legislation didn't actually apply to that make and model of 220-size trap. Wow, that was such a clever way of doing even less--all the while appearing to be (but not actually) doing something to protect dogs from traps.
For a short time, I wanted to believe that there was something new I might have learned that evening about how to protect dogs from traps. The "experts" from the Minnesota Trappers Association said that if you recess a body-gripping trap seven inches back from the opening of its box (even a box with a 9" x 9" opening), "a dog won't 'unset' that trap." In other words, they said (without any kind of supporting evidence, and as I learned later, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence) that an average dog has an instinctive hesitation to stick its head into such a box (and thus be killed by the trap).
Another thing I learned from the "experts" after the meeting (while walking to the parking lot) was that there's a new type of extra-wide and extra-stiff dog collar you can put around your dog's neck to protect it from body-gripping traps. This almost sounded like a reasonable precaution for me as a dog owner to take--until I thought back to the comforting assurance that "a dog won't 'unset' that trap," and wondered why I would need such a collar if my dog was going to be protected by the new legislation. Obviously, that was an indirect way of saying "we're only going to do so much--you still have to protect your dog from what we're not going to do in this bill." And what they didn't do didn't actually protect dogs from body-gripping traps.
There's no audio or video recording of this evening session of the 3/6/2012 committee meeting. That's a rare event, in which both recordings are lost. For those who like a conspiracy theory, it might be intriguing to know that the evening session began with a presentation by the MN Dept. of Health on the potential dangers of lead poisoning--specifically from toxic fragments of lead bullets in the venison that's donated to food shelves.
Following is my original blog entry--before Senator Carlson revealed his "amendment A1" and I realized that the bill wasn't actually harmful--only non-functional.
Surprise: Minnesota Senator John Carlson from Bemidji has proposed a bill (SF 2265) that would allow even more uses of the largest and most powerful body-gripping traps. These model 280 and 330 traps are currently limited to use in watersets (set at least half underwater for large, swimming furbearers like beavers). Senator Carlson is proposing three new allowed uses for these traps on land:
Problems for dogs in this proposal:
This committee has so far declined to hear the popular dog-protection bill SF 1736 (Wiger, Sparks, McGuire) that was proposed to protect dogs from traps.
This committee also does not seem to be acting on a recent draft proposal from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that would also restrict the use of body-gripping traps (but then, that doesn't really matter to dog owners, because these restrictions wouldn't provide significant protections for dogs from traps).
But the bill that Senator Carlson introduced yesterday will be heard in committee today. That's pretty quick work for a committee that's been declining to hear other proposals on the topic. Today the signature count is 2,267 on the petition Safe Public Lands that inspired the popular legislation (SF 1736).
Update, 3/27/2012: 2012 MN trapping legislation: fake.