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'Miracle' Dog Exposes America's Shameful Use Of Leghold Traps

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Every year on public and private land throughout the country, thousands of animals suffer and die slow deaths after becoming ensnared in leghold traps, considered by some to be one of the cruelest devices ever invented by man.

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More often than not, the horror inflicted upon creatures caught by these indiscriminating instruments of pain is seen only by the trappers who've rigged them. However, in a shocking story of survival, one trapping victim survived to expose the shameful truth behind the use of traps in America.

Cub might look like a typical dog, but he's endured suffering most people would find unimaginable. In February, he was discovered along a country road in New Mexico, half his body riddled with shotgun pellets, hobbling upon the exposed ends of bones where his hind legs once were - injuries consistent with a leghold trap.

"[Veterinarians] think he had been walking on his bones for weeks, since the healing showed it was not a new injury," Judy Paulsen, an antitrapping advocate from Project Coyote, told The Dodo.

"It's amazing the dog didn't bleed to death. He must have had such a strong will to live," she said. "I suspect this trapper checked his trap, found a dog in there and thought he must be dead and shot him to put him out of his misery when he turned out to be alive. This is all speculation, but we have so much of this going on all over the country."

Rescuers originally thought that euthanasia was the only humane solution for Cub, but despite the seriousness of his injuries, he seemed unwilling to give up. They called him a "miracle."

"This dog had been holding his head up and doing everything he could to say 'please don't let me go, I have a purpose'," says Paulsen. "We think his purpose is to spread the word about trapping and how inhumane it is, and how indiscriminate it is."

Although he had to have his rear limbs amputated, Cub has since gone on to make huge strides in his recovery. Less than a month after being found, he is growing accustomed to getting around on two legs.

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Cub's perseverance to survive has only emboldened Paulsen and others to work harder to campaign against the use of traps, hoping to ensure that no other animals fall victim to them.

Leghold traps have been outlawed in more 80 countries worldwide, including in the European Union, but in most places in America they're used with few regulations.

"These trappers set these traps saying that they're going for fur or pelts, then they don't check them for days, not knowing what's going to be in there," says Paulsen. "We've had endangered species trapped, and plenty of domestic animals."

Recreational and commercial trappers aren't the only ones claiming countless unintended victims. Camilla Fox, founder of Project Coyote, tells The Dodo that federal wildlife officials continue to set traps to capture "problem predators," like bobcats and coyotes, despite being such an indiscriminate and cruel method.

"It's not infrequent that non-target animals get caught in these traps. [The Department of Agriculture's] Wildlife Services, since 2000, has killed at least 50,000 non-target animals through their program. This is a program where they claim methods employed are target specific," says Fox. "We're far behind in terms of trapping reform as a nation."

According to the Washington Post, the Wildlife Service killed more than 4 million animals by way of trapping and other methods in 2013, though it is unclear how many non-target animals also lost their lives.

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Project Coyote and other animal welfare groups have campaigned for such reforms, but attempts to prohibit traps on public land in places like New Mexico have so far been fruitless.

"I think trapping is abhorrent, a vestige of an archaic way we managed wildlife in this country. We need to evolve behind these kinds of practices," says Fox. "We need to pass laws to ban indiscriminate traps that are simply ecologically and ethically unjustifiable. They have no place in modern wildlife management and conservation."