Leg-hold traps explained (Yes, they are STILL LEGAL!)

"Slam your hand in a car door." That's the easiest way to explain to someone what it feels like to get caught in a leg-hold trap. And yes, leg-hold traps are still legal, and are widely used across Canada.

Leg-hold traps, sometimes referred to as "footholds" by the fur trade, are designed to hold a wild animal who is fighting for his or her life. Coyotes, bobcats, lynx, foxes and wolves are often ‘targeted’, though other animals (including pets, birds and even endangered species) are routinely caught and often killed in these traps.

There are several types of leg-hold traps. Here’s a bit of detail about each one:

The "toothed" leg-hold trap:

This trap features spikes/raised bumps on the jaws on the traps. Legitimate public outcry no doubt played a role in this trap being banned in Canada, though toothed leg-hold traps can still be used in some U.S. states.

Sadly, many people believe that since the "toothed" trap is prohibited, that all leg-hold traps in Canada have been banned. This is not true. Several other models of leg-hold traps are still legal and widely used. These models include the "padded", "offset" and "laminated".

Leg-hold traps currently used in Canada:

"Padded" :

The so-called “padded” leg-hold trap clamps onto an animal’s leg with intense power, that it prevents the animal from simply slipping out of the trap. Marketed by the fur industry as a "soft catch" trap, this device has a superficial strip of rubber lining the powerful steel jaws, which is like slamming our hand in a car door with a thin glove on.

“Offset”:

This leg-hold trap is a regular steel jawed leg hold trap with a superficial 3/16 of an inch gap between the closed steel jaws. This does not stop animals from fighting to free themselves.

"Laminated": This trap has extra steel added to the jaws to make them wider (thicker).

Despite these small cosmetic changes, all leg-hold traps are designed with the same intent – to restrain a desperate, terrified and struggling wild animal who is trying to escape.

The real problem with leg-holds, despite their best possible design, is how wild animals behave in the trap once captured. Animals will do anything and everything to escape – thrash, twist, sommersault, chew at their limb, bite the metal trap etc. – this is where much of the trauma and cruelty occurs.

The truth about leg-hold traps:

Despite some claims, leg-hold traps are not designed to 'break bones' upon impact. If they did, the fragmented bones would actually enable an animal to escape.

While the industry points to this as a defense, the real problem is how animals behave once captured. They will do anything and everything to escape – thrash, twist, somersault, bite the metal trap, and even wring off their own limb.

Across Canada, trappers are required to check their leg-hold traps from once every 24 hours to once every 5 days. Until then, animals are held hostage with no food, no water, and no protection from the elements or predation.

According to a study from the University of Nebraska (Kamler, Richardson, Gipson), the injuries sustained in a padded, offset or laminated trap can include everything from swelling of the trapped limb to cuts exposing tendons or bones, severed tendons, broken bones and self-mutilation.

What you can do:

1. Never buy fur or fur trim.

2. Tell your friends and family that leg-hold traps are STILL legal in Canada.

3. Ask your Member of Parliament to ban all leg-hold traps.

4. Post our anti-trapping video, Crying Shame, on your Facebook page.

5. Learn how to open/release a leg-hold trap.

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible.

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