Casper Family Whose Dogs Died In Traps Sues Wyoming Game And Fish Department
The traps that killed three St. Bernard dogs in 2014 were illegal, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department misinformed the public about the incidents and it won't name the trapper, according to a lawsuit filed by the dogs' family.
"From the time the dogs were killed until now, Game and Fish will not disclose the identity of the trapper," Jackson attorney Gary Shockey said Monday
Shockey is representing the family of Robert and Ashley Cardenas and their children Savannah and Braylon in their lawsuit filed in Natrona County District Court.
They want the court to order the disclosure of the identity of the trapper to recover damages for property losses and emotional injuries, declare trapping is not authorized on state lands, and stop further trapping on state lands.
The defendants are trapper "John Doe"; Brian Olsen, Casper region wildlife supervisor for Game and Fish; Janet Milek, Casper region spokeswoman; the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission; and the Department itself.
Department spokesman Renny MacKay said he could not comment because of the ongoing litigation.
The case started on Dec. 2, 2014, when the Cardenas children and their other dogs, Barkley and Jax, began looking for their missing dog, Brooklynn. As they were searching on the state land near their house at the base of Casper Mountain, Barkley was caught in a snare trap and died. Jax soon was caught in another nearby trap and also died.
Olsen said then the deaths were tragic, but the trapper did nothing wrong. Wyoming law does not allow the department to reveal his name, Olsen added.
But Shockey and the Cardenas family dispute Game and Fish's handling of the case.
The snare that killed Brooklyn was not tagged, but department officials did not cite the trapper for that violation.
The traps violated regulations about break-away devices and they had illegal loops larger than 12 inches.
The Cardenas family also asserts the department conducted a "'misinformation'" campaign with incorrect statements about the legality of trapping on state land, and the traps themselves,
The Board of Land Commissioners, composed of the five statewide elected officials, authorizes the use of state lands including hunting and fishing. But "'hunt'" is not defined to include 'trap' in either Land Commission or Game and Fish statutes, rules or regulations," according to the lawsuit.
So trapping, with a few exceptions, is not allowed on state lands. An exception would be if the lessee of the state land and the Land Commission granted permission for someone to trap, Shockey said. But no documents exist indicating this trapper sought or received permission, he said.
The Game and Fish Department knows the identity of the trapper, who does not deserve anonymity, according to the lawsuit.
Because the trapper did not tag the device, he or she does not fall under the protection of the state law prohibiting the identification of the trapper.
That law itself, Shockey wrote, has problems with state and federal constitutionality because it grants anonymity to and creates a special class of citizens to trappers who tag their snares.
"There is no socially justifiable rationale for granting trappers immunities that flow from this provision," the lawsuit says. "Other than certain identity disclosure restraints in sexual assault cases, no other individual group is provided this sort of protection under Wyoming law."