Cat left hanging in leg-hold trap until dead

A man who caused a neighbour's cat to die after it was left hanging by one leg in a leg-hold trap was sentenced yesterday
Eli the cat was found dead, hanging by one arm from this trap that had been attached to a fence post (SPCA)

A man who caused a neighbour's cat to die after it was left hanging by one leg in a leg-hold trap was sentenced on Tuesday in the Masterton District Court.

Ross Dorrian, 55, pleaded guilty to using a restricted trap in contravention of the Animal Welfare (Leg Hold Traps) Order 2007, and ill-treatment of an animal causing it to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

On March 20 last year he set a restricted leg-hold trap to catch possums, nailing it to the top of a fence post on his Colombo Rd property.

The use of leg-hold traps is restricted within 150 metres of a dwelling, without the permission of the occupier, or in any area where there is a probable risk of catching a companion animal.

"Mr Dorrian set his trap within 150 metres of approximately 143 dwellings and didn't seek permission from any of his neighbours at any time," said Wellington SPCA chief executive Steve Glassey.

He checked the trap on the evening of March 22 and found the trap was empty, but failed to check on it again the following day. Traps are required to be checked daily within 12 hours of sunrise.

On the night of March 23, a four-year-old female cat called Eli was found dead, hanging by her left front leg from the trap.

"Because the trap was suspended from a fence post, Eli was left hanging by her left front leg, unable to pull herself up. Numerous scratches and scuffmarks on the fence confirm her desperate efforts to escape," says Mr Glassey.

The way that the trap was set meant that any trapped animal would have been left hanging, whether or not it was the target animal.

The cause of Eli's death could not be established, but the presence of the markings on the fence, coupled with the fact that the cat died in the trap, suggest that shock, dehydration, hypothermia, and exhaustion were contributing factors, a veterinarian concluded.

The vet said Eli would have suffered severe pain and distress at the time of having her foot caught in the trap, and hanging from the trap would have caused stretching and strain on the muscles on the left forelimb and trunk, which would have caused severe discomfort and muscle pain.

Eli would have also experienced distress from being restrained and being unable to express the normal fight or flight behaviours when exposed to pain.

Mr Dorrian, when interviewed, said he agreed there was a probable risk of catching a cat but thought that they didn't tend to go onto his property.

He was ordered to pay $1500 to the SPCA, $500 emotional harm to the owners, $263 vet costs and $100 in legal fees.

Mr Dorrian expressed significant remorse and has been co-operative throughout the investigation, the SPCA said.

"The SPCA wants to send a clear message on this issue: don't set leg-hold traps in urban areas. The risks to pets and children are real and the consequences are potentially severe," Mr Glassey said.