Animal Protection Groups Seek to Stop Steel-Jaw Leghold Traps' Return to New Jersey

Trenton, NJ—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) today provided video footage to all members of the New Jersey Legislature demonstrating the barbarity of enclosed leghold traps. In contravention of New Jersey’s ban on steel-jaw leghold traps, the New Jersey Fish and Game Council (Council) allowed the traps’ use on raccoons and opossums in the Garden State during last year’s trapping season and seeks to do so again when the trapping season begins in November. AWI and APLNJ are calling on legislators to support a resolution condemning all steel-jaw leghold type traps, reaffirming the state’s ban.

Both organizations were involved in the 1984 adoption of a landmark law prohibiting use of steel-jaw leghold traps in the state. However, after more than 30 years of this humane law, the Council is actively undermining it—inviting brutally cruel traps back into the state by simply changing the name of some of the devices to “foot encapsulating traps.” A resolution to overturn the Council’s ruling passed the Assembly last year, but was not taken up by the Senate.

The footage reveals how the traps work and shows the bone-crushing force of the Council-approved devices, which are no more than steel-jaw leghold traps placed in a box or other simple enclosure. The device used in the film clip complies with the trapping regulations, which went into effect last year and clearly conflict with the state's trap ban.

“Raccoons and opossums can be readily caught using cage and box type traps, which are known to cause only minimal trauma,” stated Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “Therefore, it is inconceivable why the Council is permitting these animals to have their front feet crushed in enclosed steel-jaw leghold traps.”

The clamping force of the traps is strong enough to inflict significant trauma and pain and restrict blood flow to raccoons and opossums. This is especially true for raccoons, whose feet are hyper-sensitive. A 1996 study revealed that 23 of 62 trapped raccoons suffered severe injuries, including 16 broken bones and two animals who had attempted to amputate their trapped limbs.

Due to the nature of these traps, any animals with dexterous front feet, such as cats, can be harmed. The trigger can be baited with scraps, fish or even cat food, which makes them especially inviting to domestic cats. The traps are staked to the ground, so when a companion animal is caught, he or she struggles in vain to escape from the agonizing pain. In fact, one of the approved devices would have to be completely disassembled before a trapped nontarget animal could be freed.

Susan Russell, wildlife policy director of APLNJ, stated, “Everyone involved during the 1984 bill’s introduction was fully aware that this bill banned all types of steel-jaw leghold traps. Allowing them in now under a different name is both a legal and ethical travesty.”

In addition to spearheading a video campaign and calling on the New Jersey Legislature to pass the resolution opposing all types of steel-jaw leghold traps, AWI and APLNJ have brought a lawsuit, challenging the Council’s action as invalid. The organizations encourage New Jersey residents to contact their legislators and request their support for SCR11 in the Senate (sponsored by Senator Ray Lesniak) and ACR25 in the Assembly (sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton). State residents can find more information on how to contact their legislators at

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