Members of the Animal Rescue Team Taiwan are calling for better enforcement of laws prohibiting the use of animal traps, after three dogs in Kaohsiung lost their legs to the devices last week.
One of the injured dogs, which lost a front leg, was nursing a litter when it was found, the team said.
Laws should be amended to allow the city’s Animal Protection Office to more effectively seize traps to prevent a recurrence of such “heart-wrenching” incidents, they added.
Photo courtesy of Animal Rescue Team Taiwan
Last week, the team was called to rescue three dogs in the city’s Liouguei (六龜) and Tianliao (田寮) districts, and Singda Harbor (興達港), and rushed the dogs to surgery to save their lives, the team said.
Article 14-2 of the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) prohibits the manufacture, sale, import, export and display of animal traps unless authorized by the central government.
The act was amended on June 29, 2011, because the authorities said the traps were a “cruel implement of slaughter and should forever disappear from Taiwan,” rescue team spokesperson Anthony Ni (倪京台) said.
Photo courtesy of Animal Rescue Team Taiwan
Despite the amendment, the number of cases handled by the team involving cats and dogs mutilated by traps has not dropped over the past seven years, he said.
Only 10 percent of animals caught in traps have been saved, with a majority dying from sepsis, he said.
Protected animals also get caught in the traps, Ni said, citing reports of leopard cats and Formosan bears coming in contact with the devices.
Moreover the Animal Protection Act only prohibits the manufacture, sale, import, export and display of traps, but not ownership — a legal loophole that many people exploit, he said.
“Faced with the threat of their traps being seized, some people simply tell authorities that they had bought the traps long ago and that they are only keeping them in storage,” he said.
In 2016, the Kaohsiung City Government was the first in the nation to introduce a municipal ordinance that closed this loophole by banning ownership of traps, he said.
City authorities informed the local hardware association about the ordinance and conducted random inspections of association members, he said.
However, the law is difficult to enforce in remote mountain communities, he said.
Every year the Kaohsiung Animal Protection Office offers free vaccination shots for rabies and other diseases to pet owners in remote rural communities.
In the process of administering vaccines it usually encounters pets with severed limbs, which their owners say were caused by the pets running off into the mountains and forests, the office said.
“Some of the traps are made by people on their own. This is just something you cannot guard against,” Ni said.
The office cooperates with local government offices and civic animal protection groups to search for traps in the mountains, and posts signage along mountain trails to remind the public that traps are illegal, he said.
The Animal Protection Act stipulates that those found making, selling, importing, exporting or exhibiting traps may be fined up to NT$75,000 (US$2,436), while Kaohsiung’s municipal ordinance prohibiting trap ownership stipulates a fine of NT$15,000.
If the use of a trap results in the death or debilitation of an animal, the owner of the trap may be fined up to NT$2 million and face up to two years in prison, as stipulated in Article 25 of the act, Animal Protection Office director Yeh Kun-sung (葉坤松) said.
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