Be careful with animal traps, dog owner pleads after tragic death of her pet

Cathy Gagnon is haunted by the sight of the dog she loved struggling to breathe while caught in an animal trap she tried desperately to pry open.

Use safer traps and put up warning signs, Winnipeg woman says after watching her dog die

Ruby, a beloved spaniel, beagle and terrier cross, died last Saturday when she got caught in a trap intended for coyotes. (Submitted by Cathy Gagnon)

Cathy Gagnon is haunted by the sight of the dog she loved struggling to breathe while caught in an animal trap she tried desperately to pry open.

Her beloved dog, Ruby, was killed Saturday afternoon in the clutches of a conibear trap just north of Winnipeg. Gagnon said the trap, hidden along a treeline near a rural road, shouldn't have been there. 

"I can't get out of my head the sound of her yelp when [the trap] hit her and then watching her suffer, and I couldn't help her," Gagnon said, sobbing.

The trap was intended to target coyotes, but happened to lure Ruby who was walking with her owner and her other dog last Saturday afternoon beside a drainage ditch near the Perimeter Highway.

The Winnipegger believes no animal strangled in a trap should face the agony Ruby endured, and if such traps exist, there should be warning signs.

"It literally took [Ruby] about 30 minutes to die because of that thing — I couldn't get it off of her," she said.

Cathy Gagnon pauses where she tried valiantly last Saturday to release her dog Ruby from the grasp of an animal trap. She says the trap, which was placed near where Gagnon regularly walks her dog just north of Winnipeg, shouldn't have been there. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The provincial government said in a statement that the trap was legally set and the RM of Rosser landowner, who lost livestock to wild animals, has the right to protect his property. The conibear trap is designed to close on an animal's neck so it's killed quickly.

But the legality of the trap doesn't comfort Gagnon, who has walked along that drainage ditch, just north of some rural properties, for roughly 20 years. She lets her pets run freely because she's always felt comfortable in the area.

"It's supposed to be a safe place for me to go," she said.

Veered off the path

On Saturday, Ruby was scampering off-leash when she veered off the berm to the row of trees where the trap was waiting. Gagnon ran over when she heard her dog squealing.

"I called and I screamed for people to help," Gagnon said.

WATCH | Cathy Gagnon recalls the moment her dog Ruby died in an animal trap:

Owner recalls moment when dog died in animal trap

3 years ago
Duration 2:16
Featured VideoCalls are growing for warning signs to be placed around animal traps in Manitoba. It comes after Cathy Gagnon's dog was killed after getting caught in one near a drainage ditch north of Winnipeg.

She tried to use branches to free Ruby, but it didn't work. The dog died after around 30 minutes, Gagnon said. Emergency personnel didn't make it in time.

"Traps that cannot instantly kill should not be legal," she said.

"It was my dog, and that's very personal, but it's just as upsetting if it was a coyote trapped in there that it didn't kill it."'

Ruby was the 'sweetest, funniest little dog,' says her owner, Cathy Gagnon, who tried valiantly to save her dog's life when it got stuck in an animal trap. (Submitted by Cathy Gagnon)

Gagnon believes Ruby was led to the trap by the smell of fish. It was the first time she'd seen a trap in the area in two decades.

The property owner who pulled out the trap said he is gutted by what happened.

The man, who did not want his name used, installed the trap because coyotes were venturing onto his property, including one occasion while his children were playing outside. He feels "absolutely sick," but felt he had no choice but to protect his family.

He was told by a provincial conservation officer that he could get another trap that wouldn't kill a coyote.

The Winnipeg Humane Society said in a statement it is devastated by Ruby's death. 

"Traps do not discriminate. Dogs, children and non-target wildlife all run risk of being caught and slowly killed by these traps," the organization said.

"The Winnipeg Humane Society is taking this tragedy very seriously. We are currently coordinating a campaign to target the dangers associated with kill traps."

In the days since Ruby's death, Gagnon has been alternating between bouts of anger and breaking into tears.

She appreciates the remorse shown by the land owner, but it doesn't make up for losing Ruby, a spaniel, beagle and terrier cross who was the "sweetest, funniest little dog," she said.

"What happens if it was a young kid walking their dog that had to experience what I did?" Gagnon said.

"I am not going to get past this for a very long time."


Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. You can reach him at