Animal traps throughout the region kill several pet dogs each year when their trapped legs lead to slow and painful deaths, says a woman who helps rescue the pooches.

Now, Angel’s Animal Rescue Society’s Judanna Dawn-Caros is taking a stand and hopes others will join her in a petition to end trapping in the area.

“These animals suffer so much before they actually die,” she said. “Trapping is such a cruel method of hunting.”

As the rescue co-ordinator for the rescue society, Dawn-Caros said the amount of suffering she has seen is “barbaric.”

Last April, residents near a trap heard the cries of a dog that was stuck near Petit Creek before they called Dawn-Caros. She said at the time that the pooch’s leg was likely in the trap for two days before finally being released.

The dog, a two-year-old golden shepherd cross named Marley, was malnourished and dehydrated when found.

But other dogs aren’t so lucky – some have even chewed off their own legs to free themselves, Dawn-Caros added.

Several trappers who are active in the area capture wild animals for their fur, and dogs are caught in the crossfire, she said.

But Kim Robinson, who is perhaps the most active trapper in Merritt, said his traps are rubber jawed and won’t break a dog’s leg. The trap that the pooch was caught in last April wasn’t set up by him, he added.

“I know the kid who set that trap, and he should have had his ass kicked because it was on my trapline and he had no business trapping there,” he said, adding that his traps wouldn’t break a dog’s bones. “If you want to come and watch me, I’ll set it and I’ll put my hand in it, and let it fire on my hand.

“Not only are my traps rubber jawed, but that dog has no business being out there chasing deer either.”

He said in his 30 years of trapping, only one dog has been victimized by one of his traps.

“I thought we had laws for dogs running free,” he said. “Why doesn’t she worry about keeping dogs where they belong and we won’t have any problems with the traps.”

He said that if dogs are kept under control, trappers can get on with maintaining the ecosystem – the number of black bears and coyotes has increased substantially, and trapping is needed.

“I’ve had people over the years telling me that I shouldn’t be doing that or I shouldn’t be doing this, and one week later I get a call from someone saying a bear has taken their pig over the fence, can you come and get it?” he said before noting a call from another woman: “Two cougars came right into her yard, right into her dog house in the middle of the night when she heard the noise. She looks outside and the cougars are in the dog house killing her dog.”

He said cougars need to be caught because they threaten everyone, including children.

“Today, trapping is done humanely,” he said.

Merritt’s Bylaw Services Officer Bob Davis said the City of Merritt employs Robinson to trap and kill beavers that threaten the Coldwater and Nicola Rivers.

Davis said Robinson pays royalties to the provincial government for each animal he traps and kills for its fur.

“One could consider the trapping of any animal inhumane, depending on your perspective, but in the same vein you could say the same thing about a slaughterhouse,” Davis said. “Whether you choose to wear furs or not is none of anybody’s business.”

While leghold traps are legal in B.C., provincial trapping regulation require people to hold a permit or have their traplines registered. Trappers must examine their non-killing and holding traps at least once every 72 hours.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that one [trapped dog] doesn’t make lots, nor does two,” Davis said. “If [Dawn-Caros] knows of more, then I guess there are more.”

According to Dawn-Caros, since Marley was trapped last April, she’s received 14 letters and phone calls about other trapped dogs, though Robinson said he doesn’t believe that number.

Many pooches that go missing in the area have been caught in a trap, Dawn-Caros said, noting she has received reports of six dogs in the devices in 2013 alone.

“The ones that weren’t dead have life-long medical conditions now,” she said.

One of the dogs, a Rottweiler, was stuck in a head trap. “He survived, and he pulled out every ligament in his hips, so his hips now are wrecked for life.”

Dawn-Caros said trappers could at the very least put signs up to indicate trapping areas, which would indicate to people the dangerous locations.

In 2011, the Town of Gibsons banned all body-clamping traps such as leghold and snare traps, except those used by conservation officers. A dog in that town was stuck in a device designed to catch wolves.

According to the town’s chief administrative officer, Emanuel Machado, there is no evidence of an increase in the amount of wolves in the community since the traps were banned.

“We haven’t seen evidence either way,” he said, adding that the decision to ban the traps was well-received by the community. “There was a lot of community support to [ban trapping] and we didn’t have direct dealings with trappers.”

Dawn-Caros said the City of Merritt’s aim of being an outdoor tourist destination is hurt by the number of traps throughout the area.

Many people visit the region for the landscape that is ideal for horseback riding, cycling and hiking.

“We have traps everywhere, so people need to be aware of these,” she said.

Dawn-Caros said anyone whose had an incident with traps or who wants to sign a petition should call the society at 250-378-5223.

Once the signatures are collected, Dawn-Caros said she will bring them to city council. The petitions are set to be located throughout town at businesses opposed to trapping, though exact locations haven’t been decided.