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The 40-pound Lab mix hadn’t looked like she’d be difficult to transport, recalls Michelle Cascio.
The dog, who had been rescued from a hoarder in Mississippi, was being moved from her temporary kennel. Cascio, a former ACO who manages The HSUS’s Emergency Placement Partner program, thought the dog seemed a little frightened, but not like she’d be impossible to handle. “So I looked at the kennel manager, and I said, ‘If I can get a lead on her easily, I think we’ll be OK,’” Cascio says. “Famous last words.”
The lead went on fine, but then the dog freaked out, bouncing back and forth off the doors in the kennel run and climbing the chain-link fencing. Cascio had to muzzle-wrap her with the leash and was carrying her toward the van, but the Lab managed to get her mouth free. She bit Cascio several times as they approached the van, luckily breaking the skin only once; the two jackets Cascio was wearing limited the other bites to bruises. As Cascio tried to open the van door, the dog slipped free and scurried under the vehicle.
“The last thing I wanted to do was have to crawl under there and try to grab her, because she would have come at me,” she says. The sight of a control pole would have sent her running. Cascio searched the vehicle for another option. Stuck between some removable panels, she found it: a Snappy Snare—a fiberglass loop that snags elusive animals by closing around them when the operator releases a ring.
Cascio got down on all fours, slid the Snappy Snare along the van’s undercarriage, positioned it near the dog, and—with a fwoop!—pulled it tight. Cascio guided her toward a waiting carrier, opened the door, and the Lab went right in.
To Snare or Not to Snare?
The Snappy Snare saved Cascio in this case, but like any piece of equipment, it has its limits. “They’re a good tool in the right situation,” Cascio says. “… It’s a tool in the toolbox, and you have to say, ‘Which one of my tools is going to be most effective in this situation, for me and for the animal that I’m trying to catch?’”
A small dog running full speed could be injured when a Snappy Snare quickly pulls tight, Cascio notes. If the dog is running in a confined area and you have some other way to catch him, you don’t want to run the risk. But you likely would use a Snappy Snare if that same dog is in an open area and poses a threat of injuring someone or running into traffic.
Snappy Snares have a much bigger loop for capture than control poles, notes Mark Kumpf, director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center in Dayton, Ohio. Kumpf can count on his fingers the number of animals he’s caught on the fly with catch poles over the years, while the number he’s captured with Snappy Snares is countless.
One limitation of Snappy Snares is that the snare is too flexible to keep a captured animal at a safe distance. When you’re trying to catch an aggressive dog—especially a larger dog—“you do want to use your control pole whenever you can, as humanely as you can,” Cascio notes. “… You have physical control over the dog on a control pole—that’s what they’re for.”
Sam Campbell, founder of Campbell Pet Co., which has made Snappy Snares for more than 20 years, says they’re not designed for aggressive, charging dogs, but can be effective for snagging elusive ones. An ACO can hide one behind her back to avoid scaring the dog, and ACOs have told Campbell that a Snappy Snare plus a tasty food item makes for an easy catch: The snare can be placed around the food on the ground, and activated when the dog is eating.
Snappy Snares should not be used on cats or wildlife except in emergencies. Cats tend to panic when they’re confined around their neck, explains Suzanne D’Alonzo, shelter services coordinator for The HSUS. They’ll spin and flail so much they can hurt themselves or even strangle. In emergency situations such as rescuing a cat from a pipe, try to loop the snare around part of the animal’s shoulder and torso, she adds.
Once caught, dogs tend to spin or try to “drag you across the prairie,” Pauli notes, but covering the dog’s head with a large towel can help calm him down.
Snappy Snares work well in places where you can offer the dog an escape route, then put the snare about six inches ahead of where he will be in a fraction of a second, says Dave Pauli, senior director of The HSUS’s wildlife innovations and response team. Dogs on the run will deploy the snare’s release mechanism with momentum; otherwise, the operator has to time the release of the cable ring for when the dog passes through the loop. Once caught, dogs tend to spin or try to “drag you across the prairie,” Pauli notes, but covering the dog’s head with a large towel can help calm him down.
Bonnie Bryant, a veteran ACO in Northern Virginia, says she’d never use a Snappy Snare on an animal who truly frightened her, “because it doesn’t give you that kind of control.”
Snappy Snares are softer, gentler, lighter, and more subtle than control poles, she adds, and she believes they’re more appealing to the public. “When you have a dog on a pole,” she says, “you look like a dog catcher.”