top of page

Trapping and Pets


Webinar on Traps: Types of traps, where to find them, how to release a trapped pet

Most pet owners think that leghold and body crushing kill traps are a danger for only a few winter months of the year for fur trapping. The reality is that in Vermont, these devices can be legally set at any time in the name of “nuisance” wildlife control. Most pet owners would not recognize these devices, or know how to remove their pet from them if they were caught. This workshop will start by defining the dangers that can be out there 24/7/365. We will cover what they look like; where to expect to find them and how to remove your pet or other animals that might become caught. Watch here.

Tips on How to Keep Your Pets Safe from Traps

Screen Shot 2020-10-09 at 7.23.15 AM.png

"My cat was trapped. He somehow got himself out, crawled home, had to have his leg amputated and lived for many years...tough boy."

Barbara from Newfane

"My mother-in-law’s dog was caught in a trap while she was walking him.  It snapped around his neck because he was going for the bait. He died while she frantically and unsuccessfully tried to free him. Heartbreaking and senseless - they should be banned!"


Kim, Rutland

“'Keeper' was caught in a leghold trap on 12/10/17, about 15 minutes after the attached pic of him was taken.  We took an (unposted) side trail off of VAST that goes through some saplines.  I was unaware it was also someone’s trapline.  He screamed bloody murder and thrashed and bit at the trap in a panic.  I was able to loosen the trap a bit but not enough to get his paw loose.  Since I did not know if or when I would be able to free him, I decided to run to a house that was in sight, figuring it was the trapper.  Luckily he was home and helped me free Keeper.  I leashed him and we walked the 2 miles home.  His paw is OK but he broke at least 3 teeth, including a canine that is 2/3 gone.  I took him to the vet and he may have to have them extracted.  We are in a wait and see mode.  The estimate is around $1000. You can use the photo if you like."


Every year in Vermont cats and dogs are caught in traps set for wildlife. Trappers are not required by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (the state department that oversees trapping) to report that they've trapped someone's pet. It is possible that many missing cats and dogs got caught in a trap and were never seen again. Trappers coined the acronym "SSS" which stands for Shoot, Shovel, Shut-Up. They realize that when the public becomes aware of a trapped dog or cat, it's bad publicity for trapping. It’s in their best interest to make the problem go away. 

Ayla was caught in a leghold trap in Putney, VT

This is Wesley. One of many Vermont dogs who was caught in a leghold trap set for wildlife.

Baited traps are hard for a curious cat or dog to ignore. These traps are indiscriminate landmines littering our natural areas and are responsible for injuring and killing countless non-targeted animals every year. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department not only doesn't require trappers to report when they trap a dog or cat, but they don't require traps to be placed a certain distance away from trails. Since trapping is allowed on public land, including national wildlife refuges, people hiking with their dogs off leash should understand the risks. A Vermont dog who was on a retractable leash was actually caught in a leghold trap, but luckily survived.

Cat's paw mangled in a leghold trap set for wildlife (above).

Above: Foxy (left) and Mr. Dog (right) are Vermont dogs who were caught in leghold traps.

We urge all pet owners to use caution and understand the dangers.  Protect Our Wildlife is a strong proponent of keeping our pets safe and also keeping our wildlife healthy and vibrant. We encourage people to keep cats indoors, not only for the safety of the cat, but also for the safety of songbirds and small mammals that cats prey upon. We also encourage dog owners to keep their dogs under verbal command at all times and not allow them to roam off-leash in the woods. Dogs have been witnessed chasing deer and other wild animals, potentially causing injury and even death. With challenges like trapping, hunting, and diminished habitat, wildlife has it hard enough out there trying to survive without domestic dogs and cats presenting an additional threat. 

Ira's leg was amputated after being caught in a trap.

Zach was caught in a leg hold trap in Victory, VT.

VT Cat

8/3/17: Vermont Cat is Found in Kill Trap

Read our press release here.

Watch the story on WPTZ here.  

Below: Vermont cat recently caught in a kill trap.

Anchor 1
Keep Dogs and Cats Safe From Traps (See this in a PDF)

The only way you can be assured that dogs and cats are safe from traps is to keep your dogs leashed and your cats indoors. For those of us who enjoy hiking with our dogs off leash, we must be vigilant and always check to see if the land we’re on is open to trapping. Unfortunately, Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that are purchased by the state for public recreation are open to trapping (and hunting). 



Other tips:


  • Know when trapping season is, but remember that traps set out of season or traps left behind after the season ends still present a threat.

  • Signs or warnings are not required in areas where trapping is taking place.

  • If walking or hiking in an off-leash park, keep dogs near trails and within visual site and verbal command.

  • Remember that traps also can be set in water, in rivers and streams — especially near banks. So always check the area before allowing your dog to swim.

  • Carry a smaller, extra leash (thick shoestring or small rope), which can be used to help compress the springs of a Conibear, spring-loaded, kill-type trap

  • Carry wire cutters strong enough to snip through the airplane-grade cable often used in snare traps (a Leatherman-style tool or normal wire cutters will not be strong enough to cut through steel cable).

  • Keep cats indoors or create a cat-proofed fenced in yard. (There are companies who make these type of cat barriers, such as Invisible Fence.)

The Story of Andrew

One of our Facebook fans recently shared the story of Andrew, the dog on the right in the photo. We edited the original story down a bit and we encourage you to read. It may even save your dog's life.

Andrew's human mom was a vet and she hadn't planned to adopt Andrew originally. Andrew was terrified of people. His mom thought that doggie agility would help boost his confidence and that's where he met his best friend, Yankee, on the left in the photo. 

Andrew's mom preferred to walk him off leash as he liked the comfort he received from walking in the pack with his buddy Yankee and other pups. While out walking, Andrew caught a scent and went about 4 feet off the trail to check it out (keep in mind that most people walk their dogs on a 6 foot leash if not longer). As Andrew went to investigate, his owner heard him cry out and then witnessed him violently struggling. He had put his head into a Conibear trap. These traps are designed to kill immediately, but only when the "right" animal enters it. When you have a 45 pound dog put his head into a trap that is not big enough, it doesn't automatically kill as intended. 

Conibears are not traps that can be opened easily's a complex trap to open even when you know how and you need a lot of strength to do it. Trying to open it is hard enough, but imagine watching your best friend dying in front of you and try opening it. 

Andrew was only 4 years old when he died. 

Oh, his mom found out the reason why Andrew was scared of humans. He had xrays for a stomach issue when his mom found that he had over 14 pellets all over his body....someone used him for target practice when he was just a puppy. Andrew was brought into this world abused by humans and also died at the hands of a terribly cruel device used by humans. 

In Vermont trapping may occur on public land, including National Wildlife Refuges, and trappers are not required to erect any signage as to where they're trapping nor are they required to set traps back off of trails. There is so much sensible trapping reform that should take place, but the public is left to suffer so that the few who trap, 0.15%, aren't inconvenienced.

If you want to see trapping reform in Vermont, contact your legislators and share this story with them.

You can also join our email list here and stay in touch to learn ways you can help.

Anchor 2
bottom of page