Finding Emo – Trapping Cruelty in Pennsylvania

By Colleen and Don Bruno

In 2015, we moved to silver springs township and bought our dream home.

Our children attend one of the best schools in the state and we can enjoy wildlife right in our backyard. Silver spring township is growing rapidly. Interstate 81 is widening as we speak, the stretch of land from route 114 to Carlisle Pike, once a rural, scenic route and a habitat for wildlife is rapidly transforming into an urban jungle.

Golf courses have become crowded upscale housing developments and farms are being replaced by new schools in response to the rapid population increase. More and more wildlife is seen in residential communities and although our family feels privileged to share our land with these harmless animals, many Pennsylvanians refer to them as “nuisance animals.”

Hunting season is in full force here in Pennsylvania. We often wake up to gunshot sounds and we have had complete strangers knock on our door and ask if they could hunt in our backyard, which backs up to an elementary school playground.

Most recently we discovered that our neighbor uses limb traps as part of his sporting ritual.

Two weeks ago, our cat Emo got out and did not come home that night. We searched for him early the next morning and found him ensnared in a limb trap in our neighbor’s yard, not far from our property, where our children play.

We released Emo’s paw from the trap and rushed him to Willow Mill Veterinary Hospital.

Emo has been undergoing daily treatment for the severe paw wound. He developed complications which required hospitalization for severe infection and gangrene. His veterinary bills are in excess of $ 3,000. He is scheduled for amputation of his paw this coming Monday, December 5th at Rossmoyne Animal Trauma Center where they frequently treat domestic animals injured by traps.

Emo is lucky that we found him. Our neighbor, who set the trap does not have any responsibility to notify us if our pet is accidentally lured into his trap and injured, according to Officer Wenrich of the Southcentral PA Game Commission.

After this incident, I contacted the local game commission to report my cat’s injury and to report these traps. I did not know what kind of traps they were and whether or not they were legal. They declined to send an officer, stating that in Pennsylvania, you can do what you want if it’s your property. I filed an online report to the state game commission, and a few days later a conservation officer followed up.

Officer Wenrich, of the local conservation office explained to us that he could only check the traps to see if they are in compliance with the Pennsylvania gaming laws, and issue citations if they did not meet all requirements.

Officer Wenrich said that his job description restricts him from considering “opinions or irrelevant information” not specifically addressed in the PA game regulations, therefore, my concern that limb traps are inhumane, unnecessary and unsuitable for a residential community is only “my opinion”, and the fact that these traps are injuring neighborhood pets and causing pain and suffering to unintended animals was not relevant information in this investigation.

The conservation officer informed me, in defense of the hunting and trapping community, that scientific research proves that animals caught in traps do not experience pain, anxiety and fear the way a human would. If my animal companion, Emo, had a voice, I believe he would tell you otherwise.

A few days later, Officer Wenrich returned to our home, with a freshly decapitated bucks head strapped to the back of his vehicle. He informed us that he did find a trapin violation of “the safety zone.”

According to Mr. Shaefer’s trapping partner, Joden, who maintains the traps, the game warden did not issue a citation for violation of the safety zone. He reports that the officer moved the trap for him, and let him off with a simple warning. The trapper said the he and gaming officer both agreed that if anyone should be charged with an offense it should be me, because i tampered with his trap. (to rescue our cat). The trapper, Joden, told me that he couldn’t care less about our cat, or any neighbors cats or dogs that get caught in his traps because that’s not his problem.

Several families in our neighborhood are very concerned about their pets, including a neighbor whose cat is also being treated for what appears to be a limb trap injury. We have offered to replace the traps with humane traps, and pleaded with them to remove the traps as a courtesy to our family and our neighborhood. They refused. Joden responded adamantly, “ we ain’t interested in humane, humane don’t work.”

The gaming officer informed me that Mr. Shaefer has no intention of removing the traps, and that they plan to add additional traps including “noose traps”. The gaming officer and the trappers deny catching any coyotes or other animals besides domestic house cats.

Joden, the trapper, informed me that he will “no way, no how” remove the traps because he is protecting his family from being killed and eaten by coyotes. I informed Joden, who does not live in our neighborhood where he is trapping, that no person in Pennsylvania history has ever been killed or eaten by a coyote and he is more likely to be struck by lightening or attacked by Mr. Shafer’s dog.

Joden the trapper responded, “Well that’s not what them-there coyotes told me. “ I asked Joden if he was telling me that the coyotes “verbally” informed him that they planned to kill and eat him. He said “Yes, I’m a coyote hunter. I know coyotes.” He said he saw them on a game cam.

Prior to this event, we had been given verbal consent by Mr. Shaefer to allow our cats to be on his property. Mr. Shaefer assured us, when we spoke to him in October, that he did not set traps anywhere near our land, where our children ride scooters and cats play. This was not true. We have six homes in our little neighborhood, and in these six homes, there are 18 cats and three dogs. I am concerned for all of them.

State animal cruelty laws, (18 pa.c.s.a. 5511) state that a crime is committed if “the dog or cat was seriously injured, suffered severe distress, or was placed at imminent risk of severe physical harm as the result of another person’s action or omission.”

According to the local wildlife and conservation office, cruelty laws do not apply because “you can do what you want to animals if it’s your property,” even if it involves neighborhood companion animals being killed or maimed.

The right to use rusty limbtraps to catch animals that pose no legitimate threat, supersede any notion of common sense or kindness.

Emo and our family are not alone in thisboat. These traps reportedly injure or kill at least 2 unintentional animals for every animal they intend to trap. Many animalsdie in these traps, or have to be euthanized because their owners can not afford the veterinary care.

Are Pennsylvania hunting laws immune to common sense and ethics?

When your favorite sport or hobby causes pain and suffering of wildlife and companion animals, destroys relationships between neighbors, and causes so much unintended damage, why not pick a new hobby or sport?

Why have these laws not been revisited and revised to reflect more modern ethics and a more evolved society? We no longer depend on wearing animal fur in order to survive the cold Pennsylvania winter.

As more natural habitat is stolen away from Pennsylvania’s wildlife, more animals will be moving into our backyards. If the coyotes really could talk to us, I’m certain that they would say that we are the nuisance animals.

My children, ages 7 and 9, are horrified by this experience. My 7 year old son said, “I thought the grown ups are supposed to stop bad things when they happen.” I told him that he’s right, grown ups are supposed to stop the bad things from happening, which is why I am telling this story.

Tomorrow morning, Emo is having surgery to amputate his toes and part of his paw at Rossmoyne Animal Trauma Center in Mechanicsburg PA. We were hoping to save his paw and leg but the ischemia from the trap caused to much damage. The Veterinarian doing the surgery said she was going to pass the story on to some of her clients that work in government.

On Friday, I wrote a letter to the PA State Game Commission which included my story. I told them that it was really upsetting to my children when the Game Officer came to our house with a buck’s head on the back of his car, and I wanted to know if it’s standard operating procedure to tell people that animals don’t feel pain, or to issue only a verbal warning after a safety zone violation which involved injuries and 1,000’s of dollars in damages.

Yesterday, I was pulling out of my driveway, and I saw the game officer leaving my neighbor’s house. He was leaving my neighbor’s driveway with a dead gutted young deer on the back of his car. He stopped at the mailbox and sat for a couple minutes. We were behind him and could not pass because he was blocking us in. We had to sit there and wait for him to do whatever he was doing…..maybe making a phone call? I told my kids to close their eyes but it was too late.

So…I took a picture. I don’t know anything about this deer except for what you can see in the photo.

He looks like a young deer and was obvioulsy cut open. I’m worried that this deer was a victim of the noose traps that my neighbor said he was going to add to his current land mine of limb traps.

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