Appellate Filings Available in State Park Dog Trapping Case
Due to the interest generated by the Indiana Natural Resources’ proposed rule package (LSA #17-436) and the issue of pet damages in general, the Center for Wildlife Ethics (CWE) has released its Indiana Appellate Court filings in Liddle v. Clark, et al.
This case challenges the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) legal authority to permit commercial fur trapping on Indiana State Park properties. The Plaintiff contends that the agency exceeded its statutory authority by allowing commercial fur trappers to maintain deadly devices on these public lands and personally benefit from the sale of the pelts obtained from the animals trapped.
Liddle also challenges the lower court’s ruling that damages for the Plaintiff’s loss, the violent death of her pet dog Copper, are limited to Fair Market Value. The pet damages issue, albeit not wildlife related, is of particular interest to our organization because Copper’s death was proximately caused by IDNR’s negligence, specifically, the agency’s deliberate failure to warn park patrons that its employee’s wildlife traps were hidden (and scattered) throughout Versailles State Park.
Everyone’s continued interest and support of this important legal challenge is greatly appreciated! CWE will keep you updated on the status of this case.
LIDDLE V. CLARK- INDIANA STATE PARK TRAPPING CASE
Press Release: LOCAL NON-PROFIT ARGUES STATE EMPLOYEES LIABLE FOR THE GRUESOME DEATH OF A DOG (8/2/16)
TRAPPING IN STATE PARKS:
When Melodie Liddle, of Holton, Indiana, took her two dogs, Copper and Pirty, for a walk in nearby Versailles State Park, she didn’t realize the day would end in tragedy.
On December 16, 2011, Liddle took Copper and Pirty, both leashed, on a winding foot path in the park that crossed under a public road to the little tributary of Lauthery Creek, about 27 feet from the roadway. The dogs, still leashed, went to the water’s edge for a drink. When they finished, Pirty came back up the bank, but 10-year-old Copper did not immediately follow. After sniffing around for about fifteen seconds, Copper started up the bank. As Liddle turned to return to the roadway, she heard Copper screaming. She immediately looked back and saw her dog flailing on the ground in pain.
Liddle rushed to her dog and found a steel-jawed trap gripping Copper’s front chest and back. She immediately dropped the leash and frantically attempted to pull the jaws of the trap apart to free her dog, but she simply wasn’t strong enough to budge the jaws apart. Once Copper lost consciousness, Liddle attempted to use her cell phone but was unable to get any service. She then ran up to the road and was able to call friend Gene Beach, who arrived on the scene about 20 minutes later. Beach was able to pry the trap apart and remove Copper. CPR was attempted, but to no avail, as Copper’s trachea was crushed. Beach then placed Copper in the back of his truck.
Liddle drove to the park entrance and spoke with attendant, who directed her to the Paul Stipples, the park manager, who was out in the field. Liddle reported that Stipples initially seemed quite surprised when she relayed what had happened. However, by the time he drove to the location where the dog died, his demeanor had changed. When Stipples stepped out of his truck he immediately asked Liddle if the dog was on a leash, to which Liddle quickly responded “yes.”
Stipples walked down to the creek area and retrieved the trap. He then picked up the leash, held it up, and dropped it back in the water. Stipples then admitted trapping was allowed in the state park. When Liddle pressed him about why the public was not warned about these dangerous devices, Stipples responded that he doesn’t want to put up signs because people would then bother the traps. He then left with the trap.
According to Beach, the trap that Stipples retrieved was a Connibear 200 trap. It was positioned within the creek bank inside a wooden frame box, approximately 10 inches above the water.
Liddle is committed to systemic policy changes that will prevent this type of unnecessary suffering from happening again on public lands, and she is working closely with the Center for Wildlife Ethics on attaining that goal.
TRAP KILLS LEASHED DOG IN VERSAILLES STATE PARK – Prompts Lawsuit Challenging IN Emergency Rule Process
La Porte, IN. The Center for Wildlife Ethics (CWE) is financially supporting a lawsuit against the Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Indiana Natural Resource Commission, the Versailles State Park Manager, and a park employee who placed, owned and is responsible for the trap that killed a park visitor’s dog. The lawsuit challenges the DNR Director’s repeated use of the Indiana emergency rule process to override existing law that prohibits trapping in Indiana state parks.
In December, 2011, the visitor walked her two leashed dogs down a public path to Laughery Creek at Versailles State Park so they could get a drink. Afterwards, one of the dogs was ensnared by a trap concealed on the bank. Attempts to save the dog’s life were unsuccessful.
CWE obtained records through a public records request which revealed that the Director of the DNR promulgated six (6) consecutive emergency rules from November 2007 to the present, and that the person who set the trap that killed Copper lacked written authorization as required by the emergency rule. Further, there was no notification to park visitors about the presence and inherent danger of the traps as required by state law.
Indiana law requires administrative agencies such as the DNR to notify the public of a proposed rule and offer the public an opportunity to comment. According to CWE’s executive director, Laura Nirenberg, this regulatory maneuver “enables DNR to circumvent public input surrounding the use of these cruel, lethal devices, thus silencing the public’s preference for safe, humane alternatives that do not sacrifice public safety, endanger park visitors’ pets, or cruelly kill wildlife.”
The Law Offices of Lawrence M. Reuben is representing the Plaintiff in this lawsuit. For more information, you may contact Lawrence M. Reuben: 317/634-2200. The Center for Wildlife Ethics is a non-profit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation through justice and education. Additional information about the organization can be found at: www.c4we.org.
OSGOOD JOURNAL (Versailles, Indiana), Mary Mattingly, Editor – September 17, 2013
LAWSUIT FILED FOR LOSS OF PET AT STATE PARK
A lawsuit has been filed against the Versailles State Park Manager, a state park employee, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Natural Resource Commission for placing a trap in the Versailles State Park that killed a Ripley County woman’s dog.
The lawsuit was filed in Marion Superior Court, Environmental Division, June 19 with Melodie Liddle of Holton named as the plaintiff. According to the press release, The Center for Wildlife Ethics is financially supporting the lawsuit.
Defendants named are Paul Sipples, as the Versailles State Park Manager, Harry Bloom, a state park employee, Cameron F. Clark as director of DNR, and the 12-member board making up the Natural Resources Commission for the Indiana.
The suit challenges the DNR Director’s repeated use of the Indiana emergency rule process to override existing law that prohibits trapping in Indiana state parks.
On Dec. 16, 2011, Liddle walked her two leashed dogs down a public path to Laughery Creek in the state park. Afterward, one of the dogs, Copper, was ensnared by a trap on the bank. Attempts to save the dog’s life were unsuccessful. The DNR’s communications director Phil Bloom told media outlets at the time that the traps were set at several parks in the winter months to control the raccoon population. According to the complaint, he told Liddle immediately after the incident there were no signs because persons would disturb the traps.
According to the lawsuit, he told Liddle immediately after the incident there were no signs because persons would disturb the traps. Marty Brenson, assistant director of communications for the DNR, told the Osgood Journal the alleged incident was off the trail and road in an area where guests are not permitted.
Public records obtained by the wildlife organization revealed the DNR director promulgated six consecutive emergency rules from November 2007 to the present. The lawsuit also states the person who set the trap that killed the dog “Copper” lacked written authorization as required by emergency rule.
The plaintiff’s attorney Lawrence Reuben of Indianapolis said they have not verified if the trapper, Harry Bloom of Dearborn County, was or is currently employed by the state. That’s important because the Attorney General’s office is representing the state and state employees in the case, Reuben said, adding no one argues Bloom set the trap.
There is an Indiana law that allows administrative agencies like the DNR to notify the public of a proposed rule and offer the public an opportunity to comment.
Reuben said the statute process takes longer so the agency may institute an “emergency rule” with a valid time period. “The rationale of an emergency rule is it can’t wait. But what is defined as an emergency?” Reuben said. This department used the emergency rule six times, he said. “It violates the intention of the emergency process,” he said. “The so- called emergency gets lost in the shuffle.”
What does Liddle want with the lawsuit? “ I filed it because I feel the Versailles State Park has been very negligent to the community and patrons and set traps unbeknownst in places that can harm others,” she said. Moreover, she doesn’t want it to happen again. “I want things changed. I want the public informed,’ she said. It could have easily been her grandsons, she added. “It’s not just about the dog. It’s bigger than that. I want to prevent it happening from some youngsters who may go walking there.”
The traps are powerful, Reuben said, and could as easily injure a child. Copper was a rescued dog, a mixed breed and about 35 pounds.
Liddle also wants signage at the park of the traps, and for the park and DNR to follow the proper rule process.
Indiana law requires administrative agencies such as the DNR to notify the public of a proposed rule and offer opportunity to comment. According to the wildlife’s executive director, Laura Nirenberg, this regulatory maneuver “enables DNR to circumvent public input surrounding the use of these cruel, lethal devices thus silencing the public’s preference for safe, humane alternatives that do not sacrifice public safety, endanger park visitors’ pets or cruelly kill wildlife.”
The filed complaint notes four counts of causes of action. Count 1 regards the failure of Sipples and Clark to exercise care to keep the park safe and resulted in depriving the plaintiff of her property and continual emotional damage. Count 2 that Sipples and Bloom owed her a duty to exercise reasonable care, and in count three, requests judicial declarations regarding the validity of the emergency rule process. Count four is for an injunction or prohibition to permit traps in state parks. She is asking the court for judgment on her behalf and compensation from Count 1 and 2.
A trial by jury is also requested.