Dog chews through limb to escape leghold trap
By Alexandra Paul, Winnipeg Free PressFebruary 21, 2009
Sula, a family pet, chewed her front leg off to escape what is believed
to have been an illegal trap in Manitoba.
Photograph by: Handout, Handout
WINNIPEG - A beloved family dog is lucky to be alive after she had to
chew her front leg off to escape what is believed to have been an
illegal leghold trap in Manitoba.
If it was a trap that damaged Sula's leg, it was likely intended to
capture coyotes in Manitou, a small community about 160 kilometres
southwest of Winnipeg.
Manitoba Conservation officials are investigating and say they expect to
call in the RCMP and provincial animal-control officers.
Sula, a collie-border collie cross, disappeared Jan. 20, leaving her
pups and mate behind at home.
Gene and Tamara Bausman spent days searching their rural, 138-hectare
Manitou property, never once hearing her distinctive bark or even a
"After 10 days, we thought she was dead," Tamara said, adding Sula had
never run away before.
On Jan. 30, Sula came home. It was dark, about 9 p.m., and it took a few
minutes for the Bausmans to realize what their dog had suffered.
"My jaw dropped to see her. I was thrilled," Tamara Bausman said. An
instant later, her joy turned to horror.
"She was hobbling on three legs. She was really scrawny; she'd lost most
of her fur. There was no blood, but there was three inches of bone
sticking out where her left front leg should have been.
"She had her shoulder, but just barely. Below that was torn flesh and
there were veins going down the bone. I freaked."
There's no emergency vet in the area, so the Bausmans fed the ravenous
dog and waited for morning. Tamara lay down with Sula. The dog slept
fitfully, jerking up every few minutes and wildly swinging her head
around, obviously terrified.
"I don't know how she defended herself out there. There are a lot of
coyotes around here," Tamara said.
Sula's was a horrific injury, but it's one the veterinarian who
amputated her rotting leg has seen before.
Dr. Jackie Enns said she often sees suspicious cuts or broken bones or
other mysterious injuries in pets at her clinic and believes leghold
traps did the damage.
She said she saw a couple of particularly bad cases in the past year in
the area around Morden, about 130 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.
In one, a small dog was brought to the clinic with a deep, distinctive
mark around her neck. Miraculously, she lived.
In another, a large dog lost an eye. In that case, the mark covered the
dog's muzzle and up into the eye-socket area.
Enns suspects the trapper released the dogs when checking the traps for
coyotes. But although the wounds are strongly suggestive, it's all
speculation, as no one has seen the traps.
"The (wounds) we've seen at the clinic have all been (done) with steel
teeth. The bones were broken with one snap. One snap, and it was gone,"
"That takes a lot of force to break it off . . . We use bone saws here,
and I can tell you, I sweat to do that."
Leghold traps with steel jaws, smooth bands or jagged teeth were banned
on land in Manitoba a decade ago. The province was the first
jurisdiction in Canada to outlaw the devices many consider barbaric.
They're still legal in the rest of the country, mostly because of the
"It's sickening when something like this happens," Enns said.
"The idea of animals running around with three limbs and the fourth limb
rotting off, it makes me not able to sleep at night."
A recent animal welfare study concluded that one in four desperate
animals caught in a trap will chew off a leg to escape the agony, only
to die later of gangrene and infection.
Trappers call it a "wring-off," when an animal chews or twists off its
own leg to free itself.
Sula now has three good legs and a foot-long scar from her back to her
belly where her left front leg used to be.
Vets have a name for survivors like Sula, the ones with three legs.
They're called tripods.