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Senate passes bill to outlaw using snares and bait to trap animals

A bill sponsored by State Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Burley) is intended to correct the unintended consequences of a 2000 statewide voter initiative.

Substitute Senate Bill 6560 designates the use of a baited hook to trap a bird or mammal as first-degree animal cruelty, outlawing the practice even if it is used to protect private property from predators.

The bill, passed last week by the Senate and headed for the House, was scheduled for a judiciary hearing this week.

“This is a very inhumane way to catch coyotes and is obviously a danger to pets and could even pose a threat to a curious child,” Oke said.

The necessity for this action resulted from Initiative 713, approved by voters in 2000, which instituted a statewide trapping ban. It included moles and gophers, making the use of any body-gripping trap a gross misdemeanor.

The results — which property owners felt immediately — was an overabundance of cougars and coyotes invading private lands and threatening livestock and pets.

Taking matters into their own hands, property owners used a loophole in the initiative. Since snare traps are not commonly used in this region, they were not specifically prohibited. So in outlawing relatively humane traps, people felt forced to use far less humane alternatives.

Oke said his bill would “restore the balance” upset by Initiative 713, elevating penalties for using the snare traps and allowing use of the recently outlawed body-gripping traps.

While Oke’s solution is “more humane,” the coyote or cougar ends up in much the same place. A property owner sets the gripping traps and checks them daily, shooting any caught animal. The difference is the degree of suffering, and the elimination of the possibility a pet or a child can be seriously injured should they be accidentally snared.

Oke said the problem here was caused by the initiative process.

“When this initiative was passed, we didn’t have a chance to go through the hearing process,” he said. “Normally, we can collect a lot of information and make the best decision for the people. With an initiative, people just vote for something up or down.”

Though the initiative process managed to throw an unfavorable snag into the trapping issue, Oke said in some cases an initiative can provide a superior governing path.

“Sometimes you will have a success with an initiative,” he said. “There are times when government doesn’t work.”

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