C.A.S.H. Letters to the Editor > 2007

C.A.S.H. Letters

Colorado Trap Ban Challenge

To [email protected]


To The Editor:

In 1996 voters approved Amendment 14 to the state constitutional which prohibited the use of leghold traps, instant-kill traps, snares and poison – cruel and inhumane methods previously used to capture or kill wildlife. The issue has resurfaced because of a challenge to the decision made by the Colorado Wildlife Commission to allow using box traps and padded leghold traps on wildlife before they are killed.

Just as important as the language of a law is the intent of a law. Gun proponents have long argued that the intent of Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the average citizen against the state infringing upon his right to bear arms, despite the amendment having been written in such a way that ties this right to “a well regulated militia.”

The intent of Amendment 14 was to prohibit cruel trapping techniques as well as the cruel treatment of wildlife at the hands of fur trappers and others who would exploit them for personal gain. When box traps are used in cruel ways or for cruel purposes, their use violates the spirit of Amendment 14. To learn how you can protect wildlife from cruel and inhumane practices, please visit www.wildwatch.org.

Joe Miele, Vice President
Wildlife Watch, Inc.

From Denverpost.com - Denver & the West

Fur-trapping ban gets new day in court
Backers of the voter-approved amendment say it was undermined when the state OK'd use of nonlethal traps.

By Steve Lipsher

Denver Post Staff Writer

Wildlife conservationists and the state renewed a decade-old feud Monday over a constitutional amendment banning fur trapping, debating whether animals could be caught in nonlethal traps and then killed.

In a downtown Denver courtroom far from the state's wilds, District Judge Larry Naves heard arguments about the intent of Amendment 14, which curbed lethal trapping in the state when it was approved by voters in 1996.

"This is a watershed moment for Amendment 14," said Susan Morath Horner, the attorney for conservation groups Sinapu and Forest Guardians. "At issue in this case ... is whether it did or did not sound the death knell to the trapping of Colorado's wildlife for pelts and trophies."

She contended that the state wildlife commission undermined the amendment's intention when it approved the use of box traps - self-closing cages baited with food used to to capture and then kill fur-bearing animals such as mink, coyote and fox.

Tim Monahan, an assistant attorney general, argued that the language of the controversial amendment - which passed with 52 percent of the vote - was intentionally ambiguous and that proponents could have sought to outlaw all trapping but stopped short.

"If such a prohibition had been clearly expressed in words, we wouldn't be here," Monahan said. "Clearly, they're asking the court to create additional prohibitions."

The amendment specifically prohibited leg-hold and instant-kill traps, snares and poison but allowed government agents to trap animals that posed a health or safety threat to humans and limited trapping of "nuisance" animals for 30 days each year.

"The purpose of the amendment was to ban inhumane, indiscriminate trapping," Horner said.

Proponents of the measure gained popular support through gruesome descriptions of animals - including occasional pets - suffering broken bones, starving or even gnawing off a foot after being caught in traditional leg-hold traps.

Horner argued that killing animals caught in box traps violates the spirit of the amendment.

Just months after the amendment passed, the governor-appointed wildlife commission allowed box trapping of bobcats, coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons and badgers, as well as the use of padded leg-hold traps.

Monahan said the wildlife commission has encouraged trapping animals that cause problems. The state requires that they be killed humanely.

Naves asked both sides to submit proposed court rulings by Oct. 19 before making a decision on whether to grant a motion by conservationists seeking an immediate ban on box traps or to retain the case for further review.

Staff writer Steve Lipsher can be reached at 970-513-9495 or [email protected]


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