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Published: Sunday, 8/1/2004

Nuisance animals' violent end

A homeowner annoyed by the intrusion of some of nature's smaller creatures - raccoons and opossums are the most frequent offenders - faces a conundrum.

The animals, after all, are doing what animals in the wild do. But these nuisance invaders are often relentless in their pursuit of food or shelter.

Too often the homeowner chooses what appears to be the humane way out - he calls an animal removal service, the animal is presumably relocated to a better and safer place, or at worst, painlessly euthanized, and the situation is resolved.

But most of the time there's nothing positive about the resolution for the animal.

As a story by Blade staff writer Grant Schulte explained, state law is specific about what those in the wild-animal recovery and removal business must do with the critters they capture.

They must either relocate the animal elsewhere on the site, which is no solution at all for most homeowners in an urban setting, or they must put the animal down.

But what state law does not require is that the critter's life be ended in a benign or gentle manner.

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, wild-animal trappers operate under a set of "guidelines" which suggest that euthanasia can include the practice of "stunning." That's defined as a sharp blow to the head. Other options: shooting the creature or breaking the animal's neck.

Bashing a raccoon's head in isn't humane; it's wanton killing.

Proper euthanization would require administering a lethal injection, as veterinarians do with aging or infirm dogs and cats.

But society has evidently decided that wild animals don't deserve the same kindness and compassion lavished on beloved domestic pets.

Drugs cost money, and in a business as apparently unregulated as this one, the pursuit of profit often means taking the easier but more violent route.

Given the continuing encroachment of urban Ohio into the countryside, this is a problem that is only going to endure and worsen.

Clearly, the state of Ohio needs a new approach.

Whether through new state law or tougher and strictly enforced regulation, the Ohio Division of Wildlife should require that trapped wild animals be delivered to division officers for humane euthanization.

And it needs to move toward a program of testing and licensing animal control businesses.

Just as importantly, more folks need to understand what usually awaits the animal they turn over to a commercial trapper and elect not to make the phone call in the first place.

If civilization is going to continue sprawling into the natural habitat of these animals, who's the real nuisance invader here? These creatures are part of the natural world around us. It's a shame we can't peacefully co-exist.

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