Synopsis, 4/15/2012

Post date: Apr 15, 2012 6:10:47 AM

Phillip was a fun-loving Jack Russell Terrier who loved to play and chase with his sister Goldie, a Jack Russell Terrier mix. Until the evening that Phillip was killed, his owner Scott Slocum used to take him and Goldie on their leashes to empty places and, when the coast was clear, let them run. One of their favorite empty places was the frozen marsh behind their suburban home in White Bear Lake, MN. That's where Phillip was killed on 1/26/2012 by a meat-baited #160 body-gripping trap hidden in the grass.

That was the worst surprise of Scott's life, and Phillip's last. It turned out that at least one person in the area knew that it was legal to set such a trap, kill a dog, and walk away without any kind of responsibility; unfortunately, that person was the trapper. Since that night, Scott has woken each morning with a new idea of how to spread the word and make his community safer.

Another ugly series of surprises has been the resistance Scott has met along the way--but on the other hand that's been outweighed by the good feelings he's had each day spreading the word and at least trying to make things better. It's also been outweighed by the good work and inspiration of kind, knowledgeable people including the authors of the popular Minnesota legislation that would protect dogs while encouraging trappers to use other safe, effective methods. Representatives John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) and Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) authored House Bill HF 2243, and Senators Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin), and Mary Jo McGuire (DFL-Falcon Heights) authored the companion Senate Bill SF 1736. They've also been met by resistance in the form of a non-functional pair of substitute bills that were obviously only intended to look like they would do something, without actually doing it. Here's a breakdown of the good and bad legislation.

Popular, dog-safe trapping legislation (HF 2243 / SF 1736):

  • Elevates lethal, body-gripping traps above the reach of dogs.
    • Effective for climbing furbearers including raccoon, fisher, and marten.
  • Encourages the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to approve other dog-safe trapping methods.
    • Effective for other target species.
  • Continues to allow the use of body-gripping traps underwater.
    • Effective for swimming furbearers including beaver, otter, and muskrat.

Politically-motivated, non-functional substitute legislation (Game & Fish Bills: HF 2171, Section 64 / SF 1943, Section 47):

  • Specifies an enclosure for only one size of body-gripping trap (in the size range of a #220 trap).
    • Insignificant protection from that one size of trap.
    • No protection from smaller traps (like the #160 trap that killed Phillip).
  • Requires only the minimal twenty-foot distance from bait for only one size of body-gripping trap.
    • No protection from that one size of trap (which is commonly used twenty feet from a bait station).
    • No protection from smaller traps.
  • Requires only a small body-gripping trap elevation--still within the reach of dogs.
    • No protection from that one size of trap (which is commonly set at this viewing level).
    • No protection from smaller traps.

In this topsy-turvy system, the good legislation has been silenced and the bad legislation has been trumpeted as something it's not. We--dog lovers and signers of the Safe Public Lands petition--want the good legislation.

Previous step: Ward's Good Fight.

Next step: Wiger's Good Fight.