Thursday, August 3, 2000

Pinole Crafting Law To Ban Animal Traps
Proposition loophole allows continued use

East Bay and the Region

By Henry K. Lee
Chronicle Staff Writer

Susan Gendron Broke down Tuesday night when she told the Pinole City Council how her beloved 12-year-old cat, Soccer, was killed in a body-gripping trap left by a pest control expert.

"My husband found him crushed to death," Gendron, 48, of Danville, said yesterday, recalling the gruesome December discovery in a neighbor's backyard. "The cat was part of the family--it's just horrible."

Moved by Gendron's story and by pleas from animal-advocacy groups, Pinole became the first Bay Area city to consider banning the traps, which snare an animal's neck, body or leg--often in steel jaws. The city will draft an ordinance within a month and ask Contra Costa County supervisors to do the same.

Animal lovers hope the moves will close a loophole in Proposition 4, an initiative approved by California voters in 1998 that made it a misdemeanor to use body-gripping, leg-hold and snare traps for sport of commercial trapping and to buy, sell or trade furs taken with the traps. The law allows padded traps to be used to protect human health and safety.

Pinole's initiative was vigorously opposed by wildlife managers, livestock owners and those who fear for the safety of endangered species if certain predatory animals, such as foxes and coyotes, are not eliminated.

"I'm in favor of trapping," said Leonard Mohring, 72, a Pinole cattle rancher. "Certain animals you have to trap to find out if they're carrying a certain disease" that could be harmful to livestock or humans.

But animal advocates say trappers are still using the devices by claiming they never intended to profit from selling furs and therefore are operating legally.

"They will target anything that someone will pay them to do," said Leroy Moyer, director of Voices For Pets, which--along with the Animal Protection Institute of Sacramento--wrote letters to Bay Area mayors and county supervisors in June.

Pinole City Councilwoman Mary Horton said the city wanted to send the message that "these traps are inhumane."

"I'm not sure the proof is there that they actually eradicate the pests," Horton said. "I don't think anybody wins. Humane entrapment and relocating the pests seems to be appropriate."

She said she hopes that the Pinole ordinance, together with a county resolution, would help bring about a complete ban on traps.

For Gendron, that would help alleviate the pain she still feels with the loss of Soccer.

While making her comments to the council, Gendron said she was embarrassed that she was crying about something that happened in December. But it still hurts, she said, noting the family has not even thought about getting a new cat.