November 29, 2006

Board Backing Down From Total Trap Ban

If the Town of East Hampton enacts an all-out ban on leg gripping animal traps on town lands, the Town Trustees won't acknowledge it, according to Councilwoman Deb Foster. Last week, during discussion of an October public hearing on a proposed ban, board members worried whether their ban might not mesh with rules and regulations other governmental bodies have in place. Earlier this year, Suffolk County enacted a ban on certain traps on its public lands, as did the Town of Southampton.

East Hampton officials are mulling over the notion, too. But during discourse last week, board members noted that the East Hampton Town Trustees may be of a different mind regarding what Pat Mansir dubbed "objects of viciousness." Councilman Brad Loewen, the one member of the body vehemently opposed to the ban, relayed a similar sentiment from the Town Trustees.

Since the death of a dog named Zephyr, who was caught and killed in a trap outside Sag Harbor last year, and the notion of banning the devices on public nature preserves first surfaced, Loewen has been a staunch supporter of trapping. He's argued against the loss of what has been a tradition. Last week, he noted that the town's Trustees are of the same mind when it comes to trapping: "They see it as a freedom and a tradition that they must protect."

Supervisor Bill McGintee favored sitting down with representatives of the trustees and attempting to reach a middle ground. He's concerned that if the town board moved forward with its law unilaterally the result could be confusing. The average citizen doesn't know which preserves are town preserves, which are trustee lands or even which are the state properties. "I'd rather craft a consistent law," he said.

Additionally, board members considered revising the proposal to exempt smaller leg gripping traps, like those set in water to catch muskrats. Local resident Tom Miller spoke to the board about the smaller "120" traps that he said wouldn't kill a pet. In fact, at the hearing he tripped the smaller trap and offered his testimony with it hanging from his hand. Councilman Pete Hammerle and the supervisor both were amenable to excluding less deadly traps, but want more information about them before making a decision.

As the discussion drew to a close Mansir and Foster appeared unswayed. Neither seemed eager to back down from an all-out ban, but they agreed to hear additional information about the capabilities of the smaller 120 trap. McGintee said he'd like the board to be prepared to vote on the law or a revised version by the mid December meeting.

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