Steel-Jawed Leg-Hold Traps

Legalized Landmines for Animals

What is a steel-jawed leg-hold trap?

  • 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 maim and cause horrible suffering to wildlife and domestic animals – including family pets — if they get 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.”

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?

  • Supporting:  The Maryland Trapping Association and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) support the use of these traps.
  • Opposing:
    • 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
    • 27 countries in the European Union.
    • The Humane Society of the United States.
    • Maryland Votes For Animals, Inc.
  • 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.

These cruel instruments 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 our state.  Maryland Votes for Animals, Inc. is dedicated to protecting Maryland’s wildlife by supporting legislation to end the use of steel-jawed leg-hold traps.