Dog owner educates people on releasing pets from wildlife traps after close call

A P.E.I. woman is trying to educate other pet owners about how to release their pets from wildlife traps, after her own dog had a close call in a snare.

The P.E.I. Trapping Association reminds people not to panic and find the locking device to set your dog free

Della LeClair says she almost lost her dog Wally (left) after he got caught in a coyote snare behind her house. (Della LeClair )

A P.E.I. woman is trying to educate other pet owners about how to release their pets from wildlife traps, after her own dog had a close call in a snare.

Della LeClair was walking her dogs on a trail in the woods behind her Cardigan home on New Year's Day.

The trail is on her neighbour's property, which she has permission to use, and where LeClair frequently walks her dogs.

She said her dogs usually don't roam too far but this time they went a little further, at which point she noticed something wrong.

"I heard loud screeching and I couldn't see Wally," LeClair said. "At first to me it almost sounded like a bird. It didn't sound like a dog."

Dog caught in snare, unable to breath

LeClair said when she rushed into the woods to investigate, she found her dog next to a tree, with his neck caught in a snare.

"I didn't know what kind of snare it was so when I saw him sort of stuck to a tree, I didn't know if it was his leg, I didn't know anything." 

When she got closer, she noticed her dog had his eyes closed and wasn't breathing.

"It was horrifying. It was absolutely horrifying. You're just shaking," she said.

'Nothing I could do'

LeClair said the first thing she did was check her pockets for something sharp to cut the trap but found nothing and she was too far from home to go back.

That's when she tried getting her fingers underneath the wire to make some room around the dog's wind pipe to help him breath, but wasn't able to. 

"I burned my fingers. It was far too tight. There was nothing I could do," she said.

LeClair said she was eventually able to find a metal tab on the snare and set him free. She added that Wally recovered quickly, but that she's still shaken up from the experience.

"You just don't know if you still have a dog or not. You just don't know," she said.

Educating through social media

LeClair has since posted about her experience on Facebook, where it has been shared more than 1,400 times.

She said she's not against trapping, but hopes to inform other dog owners about what to do if their animals get caught in a snare.

LeClair says the snare around her dog's neck was too tight for her to get under and allow him to breath. She said he was close to being unconscious when she was able to find the release and set him free. (Submitted by Della LeClair)

"Had I known that from the beginning, I probably would have been able to save 45 seconds where I felt like I was having a heart attack," she said.

"If anybody is in a situation where they see their best friend dying quickly, if this gives them enough education to know that they can do something quickly, that's all I want to be able to do."

Accidents like this 'pretty rare'

John LeLacheur, a representative for the P.E.I. Trapper's Association, said accidents like this one are "pretty rare" but there is always a risk if dogs are allowed to roam.

He said the best thing dog owners can do to protect their dogs from traps is to keep them on-leash or to at least make sure they stay close to their owner.

"We want everyone to go out and enjoy the woods. We just want them to do it responsibly and the last thing any trapper wants to see is someone's pet caught in their gear."

There are also designated areas on the Island where no trapping is allowed, but for dog owners who can't get to those areas, LeLacheur said its important to be informed about the property they're walking on. 

"Trappers need permission on land they trap on so all you need to do is find out who owns that property and talk to the land owner," he said.

Don't panic

He adds that if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation to LeClair, "the first thing to do is not to panic."

"If you get worked up, your dog will get worked up and that's the last thing you want," he said. 

LeLacheur recommends remaining calm until you can find the locking device to set free your dog.

About the Author

Nicole Williams

Nicole Williams is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. She previously worked as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.