P.E.I. trappers say industry is changing, as animal advocates call for ban

The most recent dog killed in a trap, Caspie, is not an isolated incident, says Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. 'It's time for P.E.I. to drastically restrict or even ban trapping and snaring to protect animals, to protect wildlife and to protect people's pets.' (Submitted by Debbie Travers - image credit)
The most recent dog killed in a trap, Caspie, is not an isolated incident, says Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. 'It's time for P.E.I. to drastically restrict or even ban trapping and snaring to protect animals, to protect wildlife and to protect people's pets.' (Submitted by Debbie Travers - image credit)

The fur industry on P.E.I. is facing criticism after a dog was killed in an illegal snare late last month in the western part of the province. This came after another dog was killed in a trap in the Wright's Creek area of Charlottetown in November.

But those who have experience with hunting, trapping and fur selling say that it's not an outcome they want to see either.

"No one goes out in the morning wanting to hurt someone's pet. That's just not the way people want to have it go," said John LeLacheur, a member of the P.E.I. Trappers Association. "So it's pretty sad. Our hearts go out to them."

LeLacheur said the industry on the Island is actually quite well-regulated because of P.E.I.'s high population density.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"You need [permission] from landowners to go and set your traps or snares," he said. "There's all kinds of distances to stay away from houses, and various buildings, roads and trails have to be avoided."

There's also a list of authorized traps, and only licensed trappers can set them.

"Check times are regulated fairly well on Prince Edward Island as well," said LeLacheur. "A snare, we have to check it at least every two days, any live-hold device has to be checked every day."

With the regulations, LeLacheur said it's an industry that functions well, and has done so on P.E.I. for a long time.

"A lot of people seemed to be shocked when they learned trapping goes on in P.E.I., but it's always been going on," he said. "Years ago, trapping was a good source of income for a lot of families on Prince Edward Island. But now, with the falling prices of fur, trapping is done mostly for nuisance work for farmers."

But not everyone agrees with LeLacheur.

Calls to 'drastically restrict or even ban trapping'

Originally from P.E.I., Camille Labchuk is now a lawyer and the executive director of the advocacy organization Animal Justice. She said trapping is an outdated practice that's not needed anymore.

"It's very, very clear that just allowing traps to be set willy-nilly across P.E.I. is resulting in all kinds of suffering of dogs and other animals," Labchuk said. "Animal Justice believes it's time for P.E.I. to drastically restrict or even ban trapping and snaring to protect animals, to protect wildlife, and to protect people's pets."

These are properties that the province actively encourages Islanders to get out and hike on — including with their dogs. — Camille Labchuk

Labchuk says the most recent dog killed in a trap, Caspie, is not an isolated incident.

"It's just really tragic that there's nowhere safe in the province to walk your dog anymore without being at risk of a snare slowly strangling your beloved companion animal to death," she said.

Doug Chiasson, executive director of the Fur Institute of Canada, said it's a case of one illegal trapper who will reflect on the whole industry.

"There's a community of responsible rule-following, law-abiding trappers in P.E.I.," he said. "We shouldn't use the actions of one person who was doing something illegal to then go after legal trapping."

But Labchuk said it's the same fate that meets the intended victims of the snares or traps — whether they're raccoons, foxes, coyotes or hares.

"I don't think it's in keeping with what P.E.I. is as a province and who Islanders believe that they are," she said.

Trappers 'discouraged'

Labchuk said that Animal Justice is calling for a ban on trapping on private property and Crown land.

"These are properties that the province actively encourages Islanders to get out and hike on — including with their dogs," she said.

"So with putting the public at risk, frankly it's probably only a matter of time before a child harms themselves in one of these devices."

LeLacheur said that if a ban occurred, it wouldn't change much because the industry is already in such a decline. He said his last "good" season was about a decade ago.

"The prices of fur are so low and trappers are so discouraged, that I don't think it would make a whole lot of difference," he said.

But if that were to happen, LeLacheur said it would change the way the industry works. Instead of trappers being able to sell furs, they would likely charge to trap animals.

"The system we used to have, a trapper would go out and he was paid for his fur, and the landowners didn't have to worry about paying the trapper anything," he said. "But now it's gonna be the same as calling up a plumber or carpenter and that that could be the situation in the future."