Weather Forecast


Dogs and traps

Dissatisfied with the protection afforded by current trapping regulations, dog owners are pushing for new legislation to prevent body-gripping traps from killing more canines.

Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, who authored an unsuccessful bill on that topic in the last legislative session, said he’s ready to reintroduce the legislation but agreed to wait until trappers and dog owners meet this weekend in the Twin Cities to come up with a joint solution. Ward’s legislation, which did not receive a hearing last year, prohibits a body-gripping, conibear-type trap unless the trap is five feet above the ground or totally submerged by water. The purpose of the bill is to prevent domestic dogs from inadvertently being caught in the traps.

Tim Manning Jr. whose golden retriever, Bella, was killed by a trap, said he favored the changes outlined in Ward’s bill.

“It would be nice first step,” he said.

Manning, whose family has a cabin on North Long Lake, was grouse hunting with Bella on Blueberry Bog Trail near the Whitefish Chain. The trap crushed her windpipe and Manning and his fellow hunters were unable to release the trap before she died.

The experience, he said, was traumatic. Manning said he would like to either see further restrictions placed on traps or find a way to separate trappers from unsuspecting domestic dogs.

“The way it is now isn’t working,” the Ramsey resident said.

After the incident that claimed Bella’s life, Manning became involved with Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping and agreed to distribute information about safe trapping at a booth next month at Pheasant Fest in the Twin Cities. Dog Lovers 4 Safe Trapping was organized in part by John Reynolds of Merrifield, who lost his springer spaniel to a trap last year.

Current trapping regulations, as modified by a bill that became law last year, requires that traps on public lands have an over-hang of seven inches from the top and front of an enclosure; have no bait and be elevated at least three feet from the ground or surface of the snow.

Ward and others contend the changes made by last year’s law do not solve the problem. His bill, he said, includes proven, effective methods used in other states.

“Get at least five feet off the ground or fully submerged,” he said. “That way we make sure we’re not killing pets.”

As a young adult, Ward said, he used snare traps but never used body-gripped traps, in part, because they were difficult to release.

The four-term lawmaker said he has not reintroduced his legislation yet. He agreed to wait until dog lovers and trappers meet on Saturday in the Twin Cities to potentially come up with a solution to the problems which arise when dogs encounter traps. He said the most frequent comment he receives from people on this topic is a request to do something that makes public lands safe for everyone, including pets.

“I’m just trying to work on something that seems like common sense to me,” Ward said.

Jason Abraham of the Department of Natural Resources said this week there is not enough data to gauge the effectiveness of the new law since it was just recently passed. The DNR statistics for this hunting season show 18 inadvertent trapping incidents, with nine of them fatal to dogs. The DNR, he said, is continuing to collect data on the problem.

Messages were left for Minnesota Trapping Association officials but no responses were received Thursday.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860