Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Introduces Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act

March 9, 2017
Press Release

More than 50% of America’s 566 Refuges Allow Trapping

Bill Would End the Use of Inhumane Traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-Rockland/Westchester), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, this week introduced H.R. 1438, the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act, which would prohibit the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“We must restore the true meaning of ‘refuge’ to the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Lowey. “This critical legislation will ban indiscriminate body-gripping traps on public land, which not only endanger wild animals but also the millions of visitors who enjoy our nation’s 566 refuges each year. These violent devices are simply not worth the devastation of even one accident. It is past time we ensure the entire National Wildlife Refuge System remains safe for animals and families alike.”

Each year, thousands of bobcats, otters, foxes, beavers, and other wild animals are trapped in violent body-gripping traps within the National Wildlife Refuges, where they endure hours or days of excruciating pain. These devices are indiscriminate, and often endangered species and pets are brutally wounded by them.

The Refuge from Cruel trapping Act would prohibit the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System. These traps include:

  • Steel-jaw leghold traps: designed to shut immediately after an animal steps in them, often mutilating the limb or paw. These traps have been banned or severely restricted in more than 100 countries and seven states.
  • Conibear traps: designed to slam shut on an animal’s spinal column and kill instantaneously. However, studies and undercover investigations have shown that animals that enter the trap at the wrong speed or spot die slowly and painfully.
  • Strangling neck snares: designed to tighten around an animal’s neck the more it struggles, these traps are notoriously brutal yet widely used because they are cheap and simple to operate.

"Permitting steel-jaw leghold traps and strangling snares in wildlife refuges is a true oxymoron,” said Cathy Liss, President of the Animal Welfare Institute. “Passage of the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act would help to ensure animals on protected lands do not fall victim to these brutal devices. We thank Congresswoman Lowey for her continued leadership on this issue.”

“The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is clear: to be an inviolate sanctuary for our native wildlife. Dangerous, indiscriminate body-gripping traps simply have no place on these federal protected lands,” said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA. “The brutality of these traps cannot be overstated. Steel-jaw leghold traps and Conibear traps slam shut with bone-crushing force, causing massive injury and trauma. Animals trapped in strangulation neck snares—designed to tighten around an animal’s neck as he or she struggles—also suffer in extreme agony for an unconscionable amount of time. Born Free USA commends Congresswoman Lowey for leading the effort to end this cruelty and urges swift passage of the legislation to ensure that National Wildlife Refuges are safe havens for wildlife.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the nation’s premier habitat conservation network, encompassing more than 150 million acres in 566 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. National Wildlife Refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges. Each year, 47 million visitors enjoy the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Congresswoman Lowey has spent her career fighting for the humane treatment of animals. She has been rated a Humane Champion by the Humane Society of America’s Legislative Fund (HSLF), consistently earning over 100% on the HSLF’s legislative report card.