The tragic loss of the Cardenas family’s St Bernards -- Jax, Barkley and Brooklyn -- has sparked a great deal of controversy state-wide. Though a well-covered story, comments made via social media have left people with a number of unanswered questions. As a close member of the family I hope to answer some of these questions while proposing some of my own.
One of the questions has been regarding the proximity of the dogs snared to a residence. In answer to this question, Brooklyn was found a mere hundred yards from a residence along a fence line that borders private property not far from the Cardenas residence. And while within regulations this brings about a question that needs answered by the community. How close is too close? How close to your pets and other loved ones do you feel trappers should be allowed to set these deadly traps?
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Questions were also posed regarding leash laws as well. On state land, as long as your pets are within range of voice command, they do not need to be leashed. This is public knowledge. Some thought leashes could prevent a dog from being snared, however a leashed dog could possibly get snared as well. Jax and Barkley were being supervised by 20-year-old Savannah Cardenas and 18-year-old Braylon Cardenas at the time of the incident and were within range of voice command when snared.
There were many who thought snares posed no real threat to humans. With research I have found many incidents of humans being caught by the leg. It is a possibility that people should be aware of. Savannah almost walked right into one while showing the Department of Game and Fish where they were. Snares and other traps are not often very visible to the human eye. Savannah and Braylon tried desperately to get their fingers under Jax’s snare to stop him from being strangled to death. Had they managed to do that they could have lost fingers. Knowledge is power; do your research and educate yourself on this issue. Learn how to free yourself and your pet. Has this issue made you more aware of the dangers?
The final question: Did the trapper do anything wrong? While the snare that caught Brooklyn was not properly tagged the rest of the numerous traps found were. Labeling traps is a regulation of Game and Fish, however the Cardenas family was told that they were not going to cite anyone when nine out of 10 traps were marked. They chose not to pursue the one unlabeled trap because it had been cut off and they could not be sure the tag wasn’t misplaced, despite Bobby Cardenas and another witness stating otherwise. The land is currently being leased, however the issue of the trapper having the leaseholder's permission is not the Game and Fish’s responsibility but will hopefully be addressed. How do you feel about how the Game and Fish handled this situation?
Many people have been pointing fingers in an attempt to place blame while the real issue isn’t being addressed: trapping regulations. Trapping will likely never be banned completely regardless of people’s beliefs. However, regulations can be adjusted to allow room for the safety of people and their pets. While trappers have the right to trap, people also have the right to enjoy state land safely. This is where I propose the final question: Do you wish to support a change in regulations? There is an organization in Wyoming called Wyoming Untrapped that is focused on promoting education, reform and advocacy in regards to this issue. For more information please visit www.wyominguntrapped.org.
To wrap this up I would like to let the community know that after completing this article on Nov. 6 I received a phone call. Ken Ball, area rancher, wanted to express his gratitude to the Cardenas family for coming forward with their story. “Their story saved my dogs life today,” said Ball. Ball explained that because of their story he was more prepared and aware of the potential dangers. He was able to stop his dog just moments before sticking its head through a snare trap.
The Cardenas family was very moved to hear Ball’s story. This situation has caused our entire family a great deal of emotional turmoil. The hurtful and angry bickering via social media on top of that has been overwhelming. It was very nice to hear that despite all of this their story was able to save someone from sharing their same fate.