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Steel-jawed leg-hold Traps

TrappedLegalized Landmines!

What is a steel-jawed leg-hold trap, and where did it come from?

  • The steel-jawed leg-hold trap, technically called a “foothold” trap, is a steel trapping device with powerful clamping-type jaws (see photo) that can slam shut on any part of an unsuspecting animal’s body when the animal steps into it. They can main and cause horrible suffering to wildlife and domestic animals – including family pets -- if caught in them as they walk in Maryland’s forests or fields. 

  • The trap’s design has not changed since Sewell Newhouse invented it back in 1823.  These traps are still commonly sold and used today in Maryland. 

Who uses steel-jawed leg-hold traps, why do they use them, and what is wrong with them?

  • Maryland recreational sport trappers and others use leg-hold traps to trap  furbearing animals such as raccoons, foxes, nutria, opossums, skunk or others in Maryland’s forests and fields.  
  • These traps are indiscriminate.  They are like landmines used to kill and maim humans.  Any animal or even a human can step into a leg-hold trap, resulting in severe maiming and suffering.   Some animals experiencing such horrific pain and panic will bite their own trapped legs off to try and get away.  Trappers just call this a “wring-off.”  It just “goes with the territory” sometimes.  

How often are Maryland trappers required to check these traps and what do they do to the trapped animals?

  • Trappers only have to check their leg-hold traps once every 24 hours.

  • Targeted animals helplessly caught in these traps are then commonly bludgeoned or stomped to death with no chance to get away.  They are rarely quickly shot for fear of ruining a valuable fur pelt to be sold.  

Can I remove an animal I see suffering in a leg-hold trap?

  • No.  According to Maryland DNR regulations, “It is illegal to tamper with any legally set trap, and to remove the catch from any legally set trap.”   That means if you see even a dog or a cat suffering in one of these traps, it is illegal for you to step in and try to remove it.  Instead, you let the animal continue to suffer while you call and wait for DNR to respond.

Who supports the use of these traps, and who opposes it?

  • SupportingVery few powerful institutions.  The Maryland Trapping Association and your Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) support the use of these traps.  
  • OpposingMost everyone else. They are: 
    • the American Animal Hospital Association with over 40,000 members; 
    • the American Veterinary Medical Association with over 78,000 members opposes the conventional trap and only endorsed the modified version for necessary wildlife agency trap and relocation – not killing; 
    • the World Veterinary Association a federation with 80 national veterinary medical associations; and 
    • all 27 countries in the European Union; 
    • The Humane Society of the United States;
    • Maryland Votes For Animals
  • States banning leg-hold traps include Washington, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Florida.

  • Cities banning leg-hold traps include:  Columbia, Maryland; Nashua, New Hampshire; Two Harbors, Minnesota; and St. Paul, Minnesota.  Also in Maryland, only modified use of leg-hold traps exists in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince Georges counties. 


Do This Now To Help Ban These Traps in Maryland!

Join MVFA, if you have not done so already!  These traps used for sport trapping and killing animals should be banned in Maryland.   However, politics and money play key roles in Maryland’s management of trapping in Maryland.  We need to work together providing a voice for the animals in the Maryland General Assembly.  We are dedicated to electing those who will support animal welfare causes.  The animals have no voice without us!  Join now!               

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