Trapping Season Starts Tuesday with Foothold Trap OK’d by Court

Tom Johnson | November 14, 2016 | Energy & Environment
According to ruling by the appellate court, Division of Fish and Game correct in concluding new traps are neither cruel nor inhumane

foot hold trap
With the courts upholding the use of a controversial animal trap, lawmakers are moving to ban such devices once again.

But the effort will be too late to preclude the use of the foothold trap this week, since the trapping season is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), one of the most prominent animal-rights advocates in the Legislature, introduced the bill (S-2750) last Monday, a little more than a week after an appellate panel ruled that a trap approved by the state Division of Fish & Game Council did not violate a state law banning the use of leg-hold traps.

The unanimous court decision angered animal-rights advocates and environmentalists who had challenged the agency’s decision, arguing that the new trap fell within a three-decade-old law banning the use of such devices.

“The Fish & Game Council’s regulation is cruel and violates the law and legislative intent,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, and one of the plantiffs in the court case. He said the group is considering an appeal.

Critics of the trap say it ensnares the animal, typically raccoons and opossum, without killing them, but inflicting agonizing pain.

Besides Lesniak’s bill, there is an Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR-25) moving in the lower chamber that would declare the new traps inconsistent with legislative intent of the original 1984 law banning steel leg-hold traps. That measure, however, faces an uncertain future because of a legal opinion issued by the Office of Legislative Services, which concluded the new traps are different from the steel-jaw traps covered by the law.

In its 14-page opinion, the state appeals court ruled the new regulation adopted by the agency is based on scientific investigation and research, which found the traps were not cruel and inhumane.

Lesniak’s bill would ban the sale and use of a trap “that is a spring-loaded device that restrains an animal by capturing the foot, leg, or other body part, including an enclosed foothold-type trap.