State Supreme Court upholds ban on trapping
OLYMPIA, WA-- The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Washington's voter-approved ban on most animal trapping.
"It is logical to conclude that both body-gripping traps and pesticides each bear a rational relationship to the general subject of I-713 -- the regulation of methods for trapping and killing animals," Justice Faith Ireland wrote for the majority.
I-713 banned the use of body-gripping traps and poisons to capture any mammal for recreation or commerce in fur. The initiative's backers -- chiefly the Humane Society of the United States -- argued the practices are cruel and inhumane. Nearly 55 percent of voters agreed, passing the initiative in November 2000.
"It's a pretty clear win for our side," said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president for the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. "The Supreme Court has rejected the groundless claims of the commercial trapping lobby."
After I-713 passed, landowners, farmers, ranchers, parks officials and others complained of increased animal damage to lawns, crops, livestock and fish hatcheries.
The Legislature passed a bill largely repealing I-713 earlier this year, but Gov. Gary Locke vetoed it as too contrary to the public's wishes. Instead, he asked the Fish and Wildlife Commission to turn a blind eye to some common violations, including trapping moles that tear up suburban lawns, parks and golf courses.
That didn't satisfy trappers or many landowners, who often relied on the sale of fur to offset the cost of getting rid of nuisance animals.
Ed Owens, the chairman of Citizens for Responsible Wildlife Management, the group that challenged the initiative, says all the legal options haven't been exhausted.
"We still have our second lawsuit wending its way through the courts," Owens said.
The lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsible Wildlife Management and 12 other groups seeks to invalidate Initiative 713 and Initiative 655, which outlawed bear-baiting and hunting cougar with hounds in 1996.
That lawsuit invokes a common-law theory called the Public Trust Doctrine, which Owens argues obligates the state to manage its wildlife for the benefit of all Washington's citizens.
Joining Ireland in the majority in Thursday's ruling were Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justices Charles Johnson, Barbara Madsen, Bobbe Bridge, Tom Chambers, Susan Owens and a temporary justice.
Justice Richard Sanders was the lone dissenter, saying the decision conflicts with the court's 2000 ruling striking down Initiative 695 -- which repealed the motor vehicle excise tax and called for a public vote on all taxes and fees -- on similar arguments.
"In practice it allows the court to justify any conclusion it wants by eschewing principle and predictability," Sanders wrote.
Washington Supreme Court: http://www.courts.wa.gov
Humane Society of the United States: http://www.hsus.org/
Citizens for Responsible Wildlife Management: http://www.responsiblewildlifemanagement.org/
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