After dog is caught in snare by the roadside, woman pushes for change
Memramcook resident says public should be warned of hunters' snares set near roads
One of the most important parts of Heidi Curtis's day is taking her two American pit bull terriers for a walk in and around her community of Memramcook, southeast of Moncton.
She often lets the dogs roam unleashed, but they're equipped with a noise collar to alert them when they've strayed too far from her.
That's what Curtis and the dogs were doing Sunday afternoon, just along Des Plaines Street, a public road that is not regularly maintained.
Then her dog Apollo ran off to explore a new scent and didn't come back when called. Curtis found him tense, afraid and starting to growl.
"And that's when I noticed the metal wire around his neck."
Apollo was stuck in a furbearer snare, which was set near food to increase the odds of trapping an animal, according to Curtis. A furbearer snare, often used to trap foxes, coyotes or bobcats, is designed so that the more the animal struggles to get free, the tighter it's squeezed.
"I've heard about dogs dying [from] traps before, so my immediate reaction was 'He's gonna die, and I'm gonna have to watch him die,'" Curtis said.
She called her neighbour to bring wire cutters. But as the seconds ticked on and Apollo weakened, she tried to remove the snare from the neck of her 80-pound dog herself.
"I was pretty much just trying to come to terms with it, while I was trying to get it off," she said. "'I may have to carry him home.' I wouldn't wish that on anybody."
Laws about trapping, snaring
In New Brunswick, snares and traps are only legal if they are 300 metres away from a private dwelling, school, playground, athletic field, solid waste disposal site or place of business.
People can hunt or trap on other people's property unless landowners install signs that specifically restrict or prohibit hunting, shooting, snaring or trapping within the posted area.
Nick Brown, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources, said a conservation officer was sent to determine if the snare that caught Apollo was properly set.
The officer found it was set legally.
Laws about dogs running free
But Curtis may have violated the Fish and Wildlife Act, which prohibits people from letting dogs run at large "in a resort of wildlife."
The government defines "running at large" to mean the dog is unleashed in a public place, on the private property other than the owner's, or in a forest or wooded area while not in the company and control of the owner.
Owners who let their dogs run loose can be fined at least $124.50.
Curtis said her dogs are highly trained to follow her command, and even if they'd been leashed, the outcome would have been the same, given how close to the road the snares were placed.
"If [the snares] had been an appropriate length away from the road, then this wouldn't have happened. And if it did, then it would have been my fault for allowing them to run off."
A government pamphlet for hunting and fur regulations instructs hunters and trappers to not set traps in places where pets and farm animals may be caught and to "make their best efforts to avoid accidentally capturing any pets."
There are no laws about placing snares near public roads, or putting up a sign or some other marker that there are traps or snares in the area.
"There's no reason that you can't warn the general public that you have traps there so that no one gets hurt," Curtis said.
Incidents of pets getting caught in snares
Dr. Nicole Jewett, the registrar of the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association, said cases of pets getting caught in snares pop up from time to time.
She said she understands owners sometimes let their dogs off leash, but it's against the rules.
"Even normally obedient dogs don't always listen to the owner, especially if they pick up a scent or see a rabbit or a deer," said Jewett.
Jewett says to minimize the chances of pets getting hurt by snares, pet owners should become familiar with laws around snaring and trapping, know what to do when your pet gets caught in a snare, and have a pair of wire cutters on you while going for a walk.
"You're going to have trappers that don't always listen to the rules, just like there's all types of public that don't always listen to the rules. At the end of the day, it's the pet owner's responsibility to know where they are walking their dogs, and to be aware of what the risks are."
Pushing for change
Destiney Norwood was in a similar position as Curtis last year, when her three-year old border collie escaped her father's leash and got stuck in one of over 30 snares found a few feet away from Proud Road in Saint John. The dog didn't survive.
"No matter what, my dog Delilah will never, ever come back," Norwood said. "But if I can prevent it from happening to another dog … it just [makes] me feel so much better."
According to correspondence between Norwood and Irving Oil Ltd., the company did not grant permission for snares to be placed on its property. Signs were later put up in the area to deter trespassing.
Now Norwood is focusing on getting legislation passed to regulate how close snares and traps can be to a public road, and how far they can be put within city limits. She also wants signs installed when a property participates in snaring and trapping.
Curtis said she's joining Norwood in her efforts.
Brown, of the Department of Natural Resources, said no changes are planned.