The Alaska PEI woman who’s dog died in December as the result of being caught in a beaver trap will be doing all she can to raise awareness about a new petition asking the government to reconsider its regulations around trapping and snaring within the province.
“I don’t understand why there is a need for these traps anymore,” said Lynda Fortin, “Especially for such a small Island.”
On Dec. 12, Ms Fortin was walking her three dogs in a wooden area behind her property when her Poodle Yorkie mix Cooper set off a 330 Conibear, used for trapping beaver, resulting in the death of her dog.
Shortly after Cooper’s story was reported in the media, Jennifer O’Brien, a second year UPEI student, reached out to Ms Fortin.
Ms O’Brien informed Ms Fortin she was working on creating a petition asking the government to restrict regulations for trappers and snarers on the Island.
Ms O’Brien, who is studying Anthropology and Sociology and the president of UPEI’s Students Protecting Animals, created the petition as a part of a directed studies course she was taking at UPEI on Animals and Anthropology.
“I got to do a portion of this course working with Dr Elizabeth Schoales of Animal Justice Canada. We developed the petition together as a response to the accidents that have been happening with pets being caught in traps,” explained Ms O’Brien.
Currently, the province’s Wildlife Conservation Act permits traps and snares on public land and there is no requirement for signage or other markers of where traps are placed.
“The petition is about limiting the freedom that trappers have on the Island, because this freedom is the thing that continually puts pets at risk of being caught for long periods of time or dying instantly,” said Ms O’Brien.
The petition is asking trapping and snaring on public land be prohibited, require trappers and snarers to acquire written permission from landowners to set traps or snares on private property, including forest land, require signage or other adequate markers that are clearly visible to indicate where traps or snares set and require trappers and snarers to report the trapping and snaring of non-targeted animals, including pets and wildlife.
At the time the story about Cooper broke, Ms O’Brien had already been working on the groundwork that would eventually become the final petition for about three to four months prior.
“Since we had already created this petition and were waiting to get the final copy back, it really caught my attention,” said Ms O’Brien about Cooper’s story, “Losing a pet in that way is unimaginable, and it is made even more cruel because of the minuscule number of people who actually trap on PEI.”
According to statistics quoted in the petition, only about 0.1 per cent residents in PEI engage in trapping and only 0.2 per cent engage in snaring.
“Current regulations place vastly disproportionate burden on the 99.8 per cent of the public who do not engage in these activities to protect themselves, their pets and children, and their property from hidden dangers caused by traps and snares,” states the petition.
Since the incident involving Cooper, Ms Fortin no longer walks her two remaining dogs and continues to have nightmares about that day.
Conservation officers with the provincial Department of Justice and Public Safety concluded the trap that killed Cooper had been set to regulation requirements, was on public land and the trapper was licensed and the trap was tagged as required by legislation.
However, Ms Fortin does not agree with the outcome of the investigation and is currently exploring her legal options with the help of Animal Justice.
Elizabeth Schoales from Charlottetown is with the non-profit organization that works to pass strong animal protection legislation. She too spoke with Ms Fortin shortly after what happened to Cooper.
While a ban on trapping and snaring on the Island would be the ideal situation, at the very least having better restrictive regulations will help to protect not only pets but the public, said Ms Schoales.
Ms Schoales said the province’s often used reason for continuing to allow trapping because trappers provide a service by helping to get rid of nuisance animals like the beaver is no longer unacceptable, especially since there are humane and non-lethal ways of controlling wildlife populations.
The petition is now available on the Facebook page Islanders Protecting Animals in printable form. The forms can be sent to the PO Box listed at the bottom of the petition.
Ms O’Brien said the hope is the petition will be presented to the Legislative Assembly by Green party leader Peter Bevan-Baker during the spring session in April.
Ms Fortin has placed a copy of the petition at the Post Office in Coleman and plans on dropping off copies in O’Leary.
“Nothing I can ever say or do will bring back my Cooper. However, I hope to spare others from experiencing such a terrible tragedy. Traps, especially on this very small island, simply should be done away with and at the very least, residents need to be made aware of their locations so we can avoid and hopefully spare our loved one’s lives,” said Ms Fortin.