Animal protection charity OneKind is warning pet owners across Britain to beware of snares, with hundreds of thousands thought to be set across the country every spring.
The charity’s SnareWatch.org website has recently received a number of reports of dogs and cats caught in the wire traps, with devastating results.
Gary Wright’s cocker spaniel Murphy blundered into a snare set beside a “stink pit” in Flinty Fell woods near Nenthead, Cumbria on Thursday 22nd March, and was tragically killed. The stink pit, containing carcasses of foxes, rabbits and birds, would have been built to attract animals into snares set in branches around it, in the name of predator control.
The forest is close to the Weardale Estate, a large estate managed for driven grouse shooting.
After losing sight of Murphy on the path through the forest, Gary went in search of his dog and found him already dead in the snare, having apparently broken his neck when captured by the wire noose. The local police investigated the scene the following day and found that the snare had been removed, although others had been left in place nearby.
“Murphy was a young, healthy dog who lost his life on an everyday walk in the forest, because these indiscriminate snares were deliberately set to capture animals. Our other dog, Tess, is missing him sorely.”
PCSO Tony Labram of Cumbria Police said:
“Having taken advice from a police wildlife officer, it appears that these were free-running snares set for foxes, which is legal. Unfortunately, in light of this and the fact that we were unable to examine the snare that killed Murphy, we have not identified any criminal offences to pursue as things stand.”
Libby Anderson, policy advisor to OneKind, commented:
“Snares are primitive wire traps with origins, quite literally, in the Stone Age and it is extraordinary that their use is still permitted in the UK. In spring, the number of snares set in England and Wales soars from around 80,000 to almost a quarter of a million. Because snares are completely indiscriminate, all sorts of non-target animals including protected species, livestock and beloved family pets are put in increased danger.
“Even when used legally, the suffering caused to the target animals – foxes, rabbits and hares – is quite unacceptable.”
Most of the recent reports to SnareWatch have come from England and Wales. In Scotland, the legislation on snaring is stricter and, while the traps are still being set and can still inflict severe, unjustified suffering, there appears to have been some reduction in their use. In England, users are supposed to follow a Code of Practice, but research published by DEFRA in 2012 found that this was widely disregarded.
“The situation in Scotland is by no means perfect but at least snaring is more stringently regulated and monitored. South of the border, it seems like a free-for-all with little or no accountability among users. England needs to catch up as soon as possible.”
Among other reports to SnareWatch in March:
• A cat owner in Somerset reported found her 9-month-old cat “looking terrible”, soaking wet and with the wire from a rabbit snare wrapped tightly around his body. Fortunately, the young animal had managed to get home, or he might have died in the snare.
• A dog was trapped for four hours in a snare set near a footpath close to Lambley Viaduct in Northumberland. The dog’s owner managed to free her pet, but while she was doing so her other dog got caught in another snare. The snares were set near a pile of rotting carcasses including badgers, foxes, pheasants, deer, pigeons and a cat.
• A cat was caught in a snare set in a hedge 6 metres from his home in Bridgwater, Somerset. His owners went out looking for him and found him “yelling” in pain, with the wire noose round his neck and four paws.
• A cat who went missing from her home in Pucklechurch, Bristol was found dead 17 days later, in a field adjacent to a neighbour’s garden. One week later another cat from the same home went missing. His owner found him in the same neighbour’s garden caught in a snare. The cats’ owner said: “This has been such a distressing few weeks and we are heartbroken that this has happened and wouldn’t wish this on anyone who loves their pets and wildlife. It’s a cruel thing to do to any animal – I’m totally in shock as I didn’t even know these horrid things existed still.”
Notes to editor:
1. OneKind is a Scottish animal protection charity working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals.
2. SnareWatch is an information-sharing and reporting facility about snaring in the UK. http://www.snarewatch.org/