Dog’s death in trap leads town to post park signs

Photo from Christina Diamante

Dachshund-hound mix Meeca was the beloved pet of Christina Diamante.

GUILDERLAND — A dachshund-hound mix named Meeca died recently in a steel trap, suffocating after her neck was crushed, said owner Christina Diamante of Guilderland.

Diamante initially thought, and complained to The Enterprise, that the trap was left on town land, in a wooded area behind the sewage treatment plant on Nott Road, in the vicinity of the town’s dog park.

Town officials and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation say that it happened on privately owned land, and that dogs need to be leashed whenever they are off their owner’s property.

“Dogs can run free on their own property, as long as they stay on their property,” said Greg Wier, the town’s parks and golf course maintenance supervisor. “You can’t know and control an animal as well as you think,” he added, referring to dogs that are off-leash.

About the area where the incident occurred, Wier said that it “has nothing to do with the public.”

Rick Georgeson, public information officer with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 4 Public Affairs Office, said that the question of whether hunting and trapping is allowed on town land is up to each town, and directed The Enterprise to ask Guilderland officials their regulations.

“We do not allow hunting or trapping on town land,” said Supervisor Peter Barber. He added that the DEC sets rules about trapping, including how close to a property line a trap may be set. He said, “I know people can hunt right next to town parks.”

But, as a result of this incident, Wier does plan to walk the parkland and the area around the water treatment plant with a surveyor, and return later to put up two-sided signs, every 100 feet or so, stating on one side, “Entering town property, no hunting or trapping,” and on the other, “Leaving town property.”

That way, if someone is hunting on private property along those boundaries, Wier said, they would see the signs.

Diamante said she had for years requested that the town put up such signs.


Photo from Christina Diamante 
The pet dog of Guilderland resident Christina Diamante was caught in a steel trap and killed in November. Diamante originally thought that the off-leash dog was killed in a trap set on town land, but town officials and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation say the trap was located on private property. 


The incident

The Environmental Conservation Officer who responded to the incident the night it happened — Nov. 6 — has looked into what happened, together with Guilderland Parks Superintendent Greg Wier.

Wier says that, to the best of his knowledge, the incident did not happen on town land, but on a farmer’s property, and “well within” the borders of the property. He agreed that it can be difficult to know exactly where the borders are.

He and the officer overlaid tax maps onto images from Google Earth, Wier said, and, although he could not be certain without a survey, he believed that the farmland was a parcel rented and farmed by the Gade family of Gade Farms.

In response to Enterprise questions, the DEC would not name the landowner, the trapper, or the responding officer. DEC spokesman Rick Georgeson said in an email that “the incident did occur on private property and the trapper had permission to trap on the property.”

Many local farmers give permission to — and in some cases have rental agreements with — hunters to hunt or trap on their land.

It was a steel snap trap that was used, Wier said, and he believed that the Environmental Conservation Officer had told him that the trapper’s target animal was probably raccoon.

Wier explained that the dead dog had been found just outside of deer netting that was placed around a farmed field. That deer netting — which he said Diamante had thought was a property-line fence — was the source of her assumption, at first, that the trap had been set on town land.

In fact, Wier said, the area where the trap was set was not at the edge of the private property, but well inside.

Farmer’s views

John Gade said that it was an unfortunate accident. He had not known what had happened until told about it by The Enterprise on Tuesday, he said, although he had been visited just once, a month ago, by an Environmental Conservation Officer who said he was looking into “an animal in a trap.” Gade had not even known that the animal was a dog, he said. He asked The Enterprise if the animal had lived, and was told that it had not.

Gade said that he had given the officer permission to walk the land he farms and look around; the officer never called back, he said, so he “assumed maybe it was a non-issue.” He added that he has had dogs most of his life and loves dogs.

Gade also pointed out that if a trapper uses tags and has a license, “it’s perfectly legal to trap.” However, he stressed, “The dog never got caught on my property. It’s property I’ve rented for decades. I have no right to give anyone permission to hunt or trap there….Only a property owner can do that.”

Other town parks

Barber said that the town owns “hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of land,” and that it would not be practical to place signs along the edges of all of it.

Wier is thinking about putting up signs at DiCaprio Park, off East Lydius Street, where Guilderland soccer and lacrosse teams play.

Many of the parks in Guilderland are “more pocket parks, more nestled into neighborhood situations,” Wier said. But, in the case of the rambling DiCaprio Park, large sections of its land border the Albany Pine Bush, he said, where hunting is allowed. In general, the city is “really good at putting up signs saying, ‘You are entering Pine Bush land,’” but the town might want to consider putting up signs within DiCaprio Park.

Wier pointed out that it is an individual hiker or dogwalker’s responsibility to stay on public land. The town creates trails for walking in its parks and grooms areas for snowshoeing in the golf course, for instance, he said. “If you go off the trails and start going through the woods and onto someone’s private property, you’re trespassing,” he said.

Police Chief Carol Lawlor recently forwarded Wier a letter she had received from a Guilderland resident who complained of loose dogs in Tawasentha Park, Wier said.

Lawlor was not in the office and could not be reached, but Deputy Chief of Police Curtis Cox said that the resident complained that he had seen numerous dogs off-leash in Tawasentha Park recently, and that he had recently been menaced by dogs, while on the trails, twice in one week. One menacing incident involved a Rottweiler; the owner quickly put that dog on a leash, according to the letter-writer, but the dog continued its aggressive behavior, Cox said.

Wier and Guilderland Parks and Recreation’s Public Relations Officer Linda Cure wrote a letter to The Enterprise last week emphasizing the dogs must be on leashes while on town property, and that soon Animal Control and the police may need to start giving out tickets to those who fail to obey the law.

Cox said that the police have always been observant of violations of town ordinances. He added, “As we see violations, we will ask for voluntary compliance, and, if that doesn’t work, then we would issue tickets.”

Wier said that the real danger is not, in most cases, to dogs.

“I’d be more worried about a dog attacking a child than about a child getting caught in a trap,” he said.

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