Some Washington pet owners frustrated by anti-trapping law

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Worried pet owners trapped by state law - Catching coyotes and other predators is more difficult under Initiative 713

2002-04-23

by Mark D. Baker, East Side Journal Reporter

Wildlife officials still trap coyotes that endanger life. And when they catch one of the predators, they will euthanize it or put a bullet in its head.

But Initiative 713, passed by voters two years ago, restricts when and how they can trap -- frustrating pet owners whose dogs or cats have been killed by coyotes.

In response to the plight of a Bellevue family whose dog recently was killed by a coyote, other Eastsiders have come forward with tales of their frustrations over pet losses.

``I was just furious,'' said Lee Riggs of Redmond, whose 6-year-old Pekinese, Mindy, was killed by a coyote about six months ago. Calls to local agencies resulted in no action.

``With this initiative, it's very specific what the requirements are,'' said Steve Dauma, who grants trapping permits with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Initiative 713 outlawed steel-jawed leghold trapping of wildlife and narrowed the circumstances under which padded ``foot-hold'' and ``foot-snare'' traps can be used, Dauma said.

``I'm really torn by it,'' said Kirkland's Beth Selander. ``I'm angry that my back yard isn't safe. But I don't really know if I want to kill another animal.''

Selander is torn about whether to apply for a trapping permit with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. She believes a coyote got her Yorkshire terrier, Sabby, about two weeks ago. Now she's considering filling out an application that could lead to coyotes being trapped in her back yard near Juanita Bay Park.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife grants the permits, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture does the trapping, Dauma said. But under the new law, trapping is often a last resort, he said.

Before the law went into effect, people could simply call a private ``nuisance wildlife control operator'' who would come out and trap a coyote, Dauma said. Trappers still had to be permitted, but applications did not need to be formally submitted in writing.

Under the new law, an applicant who wants an animal trapped must establish that the problem ``cannot be reasonably abated by the use of nonlethal control tools, including but not limited to guard animals, electric fencing, or box or cage traps, or if such nonlethal means cannot be reasonably applied.''

In the past couple of years, Riggs and her husband, Jim, have seen more and more coyotes in their Redmond neighborhood near Marymoor Park, she said. She thinks wildlife officials should come out and trap the animals, and take them somewhere else.

``My dog did not deserve to die,'' she said.

Mark Baker can be reached at mark.baker@eastsidejournal.com or 425-453-4248.
 

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