WARNING: IMAGE BELOW MAY DISTURB
A Taupo couple who love animals were devastated to find a mortally wounded wild rabbit caught in an antique gin trap last Saturday morning.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she would often see little rabbits in her Acacia Bay garden. As she reached for her camera on Saturday morning to photograph one, shock set in as she realised it was caught in a trap and injured.
"I had seen the trap and the chain. The poor thing ran for the hedge. I ran through the hedge and put it in a box. I took it to my husband who put it out of its misery."
Unable to open the spring-operated jaws that were clamped on to the rabbit's leg, its foot and knee still remain in the trap.
The woman estimated the rabbit had been caught in the trap for a whole day and a night.
A spokesperson for the Ministry for Primary Industries says The Animal Welfare Act 1999 restricts the use of gin traps.
The Acacia Bay residents think the trap in question probably falls within the allowed size for double-coil traps but should not have been used in a residential area.
"The Animal Welfare (Leg Hold Traps) Order 2007 prohibits leg-hold traps to be used within 150 metres of any dwelling without the occupier's permission, or in an area where there is a risk of catching a pet animal."
The Ministry for Primary Industries also said people who set gin traps had to check them daily within 12 hours of sunrise or face possible cruelty charges if an animal was caught and they failed to deal with it in a humane way.
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Living in an urban area with mainly unfenced boundaries every 25 metres to 50 metres, the Acacia Bay resident said the gin trap was not allowed.
"It distresses me, I've got a cat. It could have been a dog."
She didn't know who set the trap and said there was not a rabbit pest issue.
"We've seen just three wild rabbits lately. Someone has taken things into their own hands."
The wild rabbit was now buried in the couple's garden, in a space reserved for much loved family pets that had died.
"I don't want this to happen again. This was horrific for the rabbit and distressing for me to have to deal with."
The woman said a better solution would have been for humane traps to be used, where the entire animal was captured in a cage.
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 sets out a penalty upon conviction of an individual of up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $50,000.
SPCA communications manager Jessie Gilchrist said the incident was something "we would absolutely investigate."
"Anyone who discovers one of these traps, or an animal who has been caught in one, should contact SPCA immediately for advice."
• If you discover a gin trap in an urban area call the SPCA Taupo on 378 4396.