02/01/2013 07:58 EST | Updated 04/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Did Your Parka Kill My Dog? The Animal Suffering Behind Fur Trim


On November 22, 2012, Rob Shura and his six-year-old dog, Pippin, were in the middle of a jointly adored routine. First, they went to get the mail from the post office, and then they headed to a popular hiking trail in Grand Bend Provincial Park, Manitoba. About 75 metres in, Pippin let out a yelp, and Rob ran towards the sound of her voice. To his horror, he found she had been caught by a Conibear trap placed within 30 feet of the trail (a completely legal act). He fought relentlessly to free her, but could not release the springs. She died in his arms after several minutes of struggle. Shura explains that after crying over Pippin's body in the snow for nearly half an hour, he was unable to remove the trap, so he carried her to his vehicle with it still attached.

It took heavy tools and an angle grinder to remove the trap from Pippin's body. Not long after the incident, the province announced that trapping would be banned in "heavily used" parks.

A few weeks later, an 11-year-old lab named Niki was killed by a trap in B.C. And only weeks before this, a dog named Sophie narrowly escaped with her life after encountering a trap in the same region.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog feels sickened by these stories. For an animal to be ambushed in the midst of his most joyous pastime is the ultimate violation.

The government doesn't collect statistics, so no one knows precisely how many dogs and cats are caught in traps across Canada. One thing is for sure: Pippin, Niki and Sophie (along with all the other reported and unreported victims) prove that so long as there is trapping, our companions will be the collateral damage.

According to the Sierra Club, for every "target" animal trapped, at least two "non-target" animals are also caught. These include dogs like Pippin, as well as illegally trapped endangered species like this wolverine, or this cougar.

So why are these traps there in the first place? And should we support the very same violence against any animal, dog or not? Consider the coyote.

The coyote's resemblance to your dog is not superficial. They are so closely related they can actually breed with one another.

Unfortunately, fashion giants like Canada Goose have helped created a market for their fur by using it in the hoods of their parkas. This micro-fad has consequences: From 50,000 to 100,000 of our dog's cousins are killedeachyear.

They are commonly caught by the leghold trap, which, despite decades of outcry, is legal in Canada. These traps catch animals by the limb to ensure their fur remains unspoiled. Once caught, the animals endure a painful and panic-filled wait until they are "dispatched" (bludgeoned, choked or stomped to death) by the trapper. Regulations in Canada mean that animals trapped in these (and other types of traps) can be subjected to this hell for up to two weeks. They break teeth and bones trying to escape, and some even resort to chewing off their own limbs. There are documented cases of dogs doing the very same thing.

Coyotes are also killed by snare, a wire noose that tightens as the animal tries to free herself. While the industry claims these traps kill instantly, experts explain that snares actually "cause an agonizing prolonged death." A study of snared coyotes noted a large proportion of carcasses with fractured limbs, broken teeth, and bullet holes, all proof they did not die instantly. One third of them also had grotesquely swollen heads (dubbed "jellyheads" by trappers). When the snare doesn't close sufficiently, it constricts the jugular vein on the outside of the neck, which stops blood from returning to the heart. Meanwhile, the carotid artery continues to pump blood into the brain, eventually causing a rupture. The scientist who noted this wrote: "Anyone who has had a migraine knows what it feels like to have swollen blood vessels in the head. To have blood vessels burst because of pressure must be excruciating."

Despite this brutality, the fur industry is standing tall on its last leg. Due to widespread public disapproval, it has had to face steadily decliningsupport. The industry's only option was probably to rebrand the story of fur. Maybe that's why they virtually flooded the market with cheap fur trim on jackets and accessories, convincing some that fur trim was merely a byproduct, and hardly a moral issue. Sadly, last year in Canada, more than 3.3 million animals were killed for their fur. According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the overwhelming majority of that fur was specifically for trim. Along with the millions of targeted animals, dogs like Pippin, Niki and Sophie are the ones paying the price for propping up this antiquated industry.

Companies like Canada Goose attempt to counter hesitations about wearing fur by claiming that coyotes are considered pests in many part of Canada because they attack animals and even people. While media occasionally caves to this spin-doctoring, the science is clear: Coyotes are very shy and will not normally approach or attack humans. To put it in context, there are approximately 460,000 dog bites each year in Canada, 1-2 of which prove fatal. A recent study found that from 1960 to 2006 (a 46 year span), there were a total of 142 reported incidents of coyotes biting humans. That is approximately 3 per year, versus the nearly half a million incidents per year involving dogs. And while dogs are responsible for 1-2 fatalities a year, there is only a single incident on record of a fatal attack by a coyote on a Canadian. Ever. Communities like Niagara Falls, and even the Ministry of Natural Resources, are beginning to realize this, and prioritize non-lethal alternatives to human-coyote interactions.

By attempting to control the conversation, the industry hopes that Canadians will fail to notice a few key truths about the fur trade. They hope we don't realize that a trapped coyote suffers as much as a trapped dog. They hope we don't ask ourselves how we can walk, feed, cuddle and love a dog, but wear its cousin. In the name of profit, they hope we don't realize it was their trap that killed Pippin.

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