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Nuisance animals deserve respect

Trapping, killing guidelines must require humane treatment

The thrill of seeing a wild animal can be considerably dampened if that animal has taken up residence under your porch.

Confronted with the prospect of trying to deal with a creature that comes equipped with fangs and claws, many homeowners hire a "nuisance animal trapper" to do the dirty work. The trapper will come to their house, capture and remove the unwanted guest from the property. Possums, skunks and raccoons are usual targets.

The trappers operate businesses and as such have to meet a variety of requirements, but one requirement does not exist in any formal manner: the requirement to treat the animals humanely. That gap appears about ready to be partially closed; we hope the requirements will be sensible, yet firm enough to protect animals from brutish behavior.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is drafting rules that will guide trappers in their handling of the nuisance animals. The rules include standards for trapping, caging and caring for &

8212; and yes, euthanizing &

8212; the animals.

Now we enjoy a good steak as much as the next person and are not exactly worked up over the fact that goldfish are held in captivity in too-small bowls. A lot of the animal rights stuff is over the top, especially given all the unmet needs for humans in the world today. But no one with any common decency wants to see animals abused or made to suffer unnecessarily. As with any business sector, the animal trappers are likely to be decent folks who try to do their jobs humanely. But, as with any business sector, there are undoubtedly a few bad eggs who would take shortcuts to improve the bottom line. That's why some guidelines are needed.

The plan is not without critics. Animal-rights activists say there is little penalty for those who break the new rules. To their way of thinking, not enough emphasis is placed on non-lethal approaches. Some trappers fear that the regulation will interfere with their ability to get the job done.

We hope the final rule is not onerous for the trappers, but that it demands that the animals be humanely treated.

We should remember that what we call a "nuisance animal" is really just some poor wild creature that's wandered into a place where it's not wanted. There's not always a happy ending to these animal-human interactions, but at least we can ensure that common decency is expected along the way.