Taxpayer-Funded Tragedy—Beloved Pet Killed by Wildlife Services

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 3:30pm

Guest blog post by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.

Recently, we received word of a tragic story from Oregon in which a family’s beloved dog was strangled to death by a heavy-duty trap left by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division. This little-known federal agency uses tax dollars to kill wildlife species that homeowners and ranchers consider to be problematic or nuisances. Unattended traps and poisons—and even helicopter hunting—are all routine features of Wildlife Services’ campaign to kill wildlife. Their work is often carried out without oversight or public notification, and as the event in Oregon shows, can have heartbreaking results.

Doug and Denise McCurtain found their seven-year old Border Collie, Maggie, caught in a Conibear trap set by Wildlife Services to kill nutria (a small, non-native wild animal) in their neighborhood. This trap, which is designed to break the neck and strangle an animal, was placed less than 50 feet from their backyard, near a pond where children and pets often play. The McCurtains’ homeowners’ association notified them that traps would be set, but the McCurtains were not informed that such a dangerous trap would be used on land, or that an unmarked trap would be placed so close to their home.

Unfortunately, Maggie’s case isn’t the first time a family pet has been killed by Wildlife Services. Tragedies like this happen all too often. Earlier this year, a beloved family dog in Texas named Bella was poisoned by an unmarked explosive device left by Wildlife Services containing sodium cyanide.

U.S. Wildlife Services must do more to prevent tragedies like these. Better notification of the dangers in the community could have spared Maggie’s life. As long as Wildlife Services continues to use lethal means to manage wildlife, the agency places our pets at risk and causes terrible suffering and death to thousands of wild animals each year. If this disturbs you, we urge you to contact your U.S. senators and representative and ask them to stop spending your tax dollars on dangerous programs to kill wildlife.