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Hunting Accident File > Safe Trapping?: > January 5,2005

OWNER GRIEVES OVER DOG'S DEATH IN TRAP

Tuesday, December 07, 2004 By Morgan Jarema

The Grand Rapids Press

LOWELL -- Diane Smith's purebred Brittany spaniel, Ginger, was a big reason Smith moved from Grand Rapids to Lowell a couple years ago.

The 4-year-old dog loved the water and to chase birds on walks with her owner.

"We were together all the time," Smith said. "In my car or my paddle boat, she had to sit right next to me."

One of their favorite spots to walk was where the Flat and Grand rivers meet on the city's south side.

The last time they were there was Nov. 10. Smith let Ginger off her leash to run. She said the dog stayed about 20 feet ahead of her, always looking back to make sure she was following.

"And then I heard a noise I can't even describe," Smith said.

Ginger had walked into an animal trap that was placed illegally on city property. A Lowell ordinance prohibits trapping within city limits.

"I can hardly put my brain around what happened," Smith said. "I just started screaming 'Ginger! Ginger!' I couldn't get the trap open. There was nothing I could do."

The trap had closed around Ginger's throat. Smith stayed with her pet until she stopped breathing, then walked about a half-mile to the Lowell police station.

Officer Chad Bustraan drove Smith back to the spot and carried Ginger's body to his cruiser. He then drove Smith home, where she buried the dog with help from family and neighbors.

"I can't convey in words how I would have felt if that had happened to me," said Bustraan, a dog owner. "It was difficult but, at the same time, I had to maintain my composure."

Bustraan checked the area and found no other traps.

Smith recently placed a wreath at the spot where Ginger died. While she is determined to not remember her dog with anger for those who placed the trap, she does want them to know what she lost that day.

She cannot talk for long without tears.

"I would ask them, 'What were you thinking?'" she said, "and 'Do you know how much heartbreak you have caused?'"

The trap, designed to catch small animals, was attached to a cord tied to a nearby tree and was baited with a container of fish guts.

Police have no leads. Traps are required by state law to have tags that identify the owner. The one that killed Ginger had partial owner information from Mecosta, about 70 miles away, but Bustraan said that owner told police he sold all his traps at a garage sale nearly two years ago.

"Unfortunately, these things change hands an awful lot," Bustraan said. "It has to be a local person, someone who knows the area."

Bill Fuchs, a state Department of Natural Resources game area manager and wildlife technician, said if the person who placed the trap is found, he or she could face penalties including improper trapping on public land, violation of the city ordinance, trapping out of season and failing to register the trap.

Anyone with information is asked to call Lowell Police Detective James Hinton at 897-7123.


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