ST. GEORGE — A cat lost its paw after getting caught in a raccoon trap in St. George in November, and three teens trying to help the stray were bit in the process.
Following this and other reports of animals being caught in illegally set traps, the St. George City Council voted Thursday to outlaw trapping on city property, with some exceptions.
While setting body-gripping traps on public property without license is already illegal under state law, the council updated the city’s ordinance to expressly prohibit the practice within St. George.
Before they were expressly prohibited, traps designed to clamp animal appendages had been found in areas throughout the city.
“We have had quite a few cats and dogs trapped in these in the past,” Kris Neal said of the issue in a previous City Council meeting. “They only have to be checked every 48 hours, so an animal can sit there and suffer for that long.”
Neal runs an animal rescue called One More Chance C.A.T.S., which works to reduce feral cat populations by conducting a trap, neuter and release program on feral colonies using live box traps with food that are checked frequently.
Neal brought the issue to the city after a feral cat was found clamped to an illegal trap near a parking lot.
The cat was freed from the trap by St. George Animal Control, but it escaped before it could be provided with medical attention and was spotted limping on its injured leg days later.
“There really isn’t a place for these kinds of traps in our city limits anymore.” Neal said “It’s really only a matter of time before a human does step into one.”
Besides the possibility of a person becoming ensnared, Neal said people who come across trapped animals face a real possibility of getting hurt if they attempt to free them.
The three young teens who found a stray cat caught in a raccoon trap underneath the bridge on River Road near Horseman Park Drive all suffered bite wounds as they attempted to free the frightened, injured animal. The teens managed to get the cat to a veterinarian where it had to have its paw amputated.
“Even though this wasn’t a trap that would have caught a human,” Neal said, “it was a trap that kids got hurt trying to help the animal.”
The ordinance was also drafted in part to protect people and animals near trails and waterways on or adjacent to city property.
The ordinance prohibits any trapping within the city unless deemed necessary by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources or police. Humane live box or cage traps like the ones used by One More Chance C.A.T.S. are still permitted by the ordinance.
Any legally sanctioned trapping may not use conibear-type traps, which are designed to fatally injure animals when triggered.
Trapping is still permitted on private property.
“Utah law does allow for you to trap on your private property but you have to follow certain requirements in Utah law for permits or placing those traps,” St. George City Attorney Shawn Guzman said.
Depending on the type of trap and animal, state law allows some trapping without permit on private property, according to the DWR.
“I have to really hand it to the City Council for addressing this,” Neal told St. George News Friday. “I got 90 percent of what I felt needed to be done, and that is a law on the books that is at least a deterrent.”
Violating the ordinance is a class B misdemeanor.
A previous draft of the ordinance would have banned trapping on private property within 50 feet of public roads and trails, but the council removed that requirement before approving the ordinance.
“We all realize we need to trap animals,” Guzman said. “We get calls to animal services all the time about some wild animals that get into people’s yards and into their homes – into their attics, et cetera. We have to call the Department of Natural Resources or hire one of these trappers to come in.
“It’s something that needs to be done. We cannot have a blanket ‘no trapping.’”
Neal said anyone who comes across an animal trapped illegally should call local animal control or police dispatch for assistance.
“Those guys are trained to know what to do,” Neal said of the animal control officers. “People shouldn’t try to help those animals on their own.”
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