After his beloved dog Che’s snout was caught in a leg hold trap, Montrealer Frederic Berard started a campaign urging Quebec to heavily restrict or even ban their use.

“Che was having a walk as always at my chalet, and he got trapped,” said the constitutional lawyer. “I would say he was very close to dying because those are instruments to kill an animal, obviously.”

When Berard posted the account of his dog’s injury on Facebook, other pet owners began sharing their equally troubling stories.

“I received so many testimonies mentioning the same story again and again and again, and I realized it’s not an anecdote, it’s a phenomenon and we need to regulate that to stop that,” said Berard. “In 2023, we’re better than that in Quebec.”

The “Boycottons SAIL, CANAC et Latulippe qui vendent des pieges!” change.org petition has garnered over 2,300 signatures, calling leg hold traps “cruel” and “without pity” for animals that get caught in them.

The group on Facebook would like much stricter regulations or even a prohibition of leg hold traps outside of traditional Indigenous trapping, which the group acknowledges is done with expertise and compassion.

To trap in Quebec, you must be 12 years old, have taken a training course and have a licence. You can then trap on public land so long as you don’t use traps with teeth, hooks, claws or barbed wire.

Trappers are not required to post signage warning people that traps are near or to check their traps daily.

“So there’s a story of a dog that had to stay there for nine days,” said Berard.

NON-TARGET ANIMALS CAUGHT

An American Veterinary Medical Association report in 2008 found that as many as 67 per cent of animals caught in traps are not the ones the trapper intended to catch.

“Surveys of endangered animals such as flightless birds sometimes record high levels of trap injury,” the report reads. “Non-target animals can be released from leg hold traps, but their survival may be impaired. More severe injuries may also result with multiple captures of the same animal in catch-and-release situations.”

In Quebec, trappers who catch a non-target animal must report it, but only if it is on the “Animals that must be declared list,” including black bears, grey foxes, polar bears or wild turkeys.

Pets are not on the list.

DAMAGE TO PETS AND PET PARENTS

The damage done to animals caught in traps is often severe.

“We’ve seen animals come in with muscle tears through their legs, and we’ve had to try to suture them back together,” said animal health technician Alexandra Yaksich. “We’ve seen animals come in that have been in these traps for days at a time, so they start to get very serious bacterial infections in their paws and going up their arms, and sometimes the only thing you can do in that case is amputate the arm.”

Yaksich said the physical damage to the pet is written all over the face of the pet’s owners.

“Often, the witnessing of such horrific images, especially when it’s your own animal, to see muscle exposed, lots of blood, that’s very traumatizing,” she said. “Often we hear from clients that they have dreams about it, and they’re still thinking about it years after it happened.”

Animal health technician Alexandra Yaksich treats Poe, and hopes that one day leg hold traps will will be banned. (Daniel J. Rowe/CTV News)

In addition to seeing a family pet injured, owners also have to make a decision of whether to pay costly vet bills or put the animal down.

The pricey vet bill is even harder to swallow for some when they learn that traps are relatively inexpensive.

The leg hold trap that caught Berard’s dog Che cost about $25 online.

If that same trap had caught his other dog Lenin or a smaller animal such as a cat, it likely would have died.

“We’re very lucky that he’s a tough cookie because most of the time, dogs like that just die right away,” said Berard. 

Che still has the scars from when a leg hold trap snapped across his snout. (Daniel J. Rowe/CTV News)

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