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Dog's death leads to review of trapping law

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After a busy week at work Dan Babich slept in late Saturday Nov. 10 and then took his 11-month yellow lab Bella for a walk around Keegan Lake north of the Brockway development where he lives.

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It was during his early November trot that the seemingly good day turned tragic. Bella got caught in a trap and died.

Nearly eight months later, remembering the devasting day still brings tears to Babich's eyes.

On their way home from a walk in which Bella, a bird dog in training, scared up about 10 birds Babich and Bella walked past a post. Babich walked on one side of it, Bella on the other.

Probably smelling the bait on the trap Bella bent down to sniff and became ensnared in a Conibear Trap meant for coyotes and raccoons. Babich said the trap was attached to the pole and baited with a donut.

Although it was probably only four or five minutes Babich said he desperately tried to get the contraption off his dog for what seemed like forever. He eventually engaged the release mechanism but by then it was too late.

Babich still can picture Bella lying lifeless in the grass and weeds.

"It's the last image I have of her," Babich said. "I couldn't sleep for a week after that because I couldn't get it out of my head."

After taking in what had happened, Babich called his dad to come help him move the 60 pound dog.

A sportsman himself, Babich said he supports hunting but can't understand why trapping is allowed so close to a residential neighborhood.

"There are so many dogs in our neighborhood, it could have been anyone of them," said Kathleen Babich, Dan's wife. In addition the couple said there are a lot of children in the area who play near the lake.

Not wanting others to suffer from such a tragedy the Babiches decided to act. First they contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource to see if any laws were being broken.

The DNR investigated and told Babich it was up to the city of Rosemount to determine where trapping is allowed within its borders and that it was legal.

"I was surprised," said Babich.

The couple also sent a letter to Governor Tim Pawlenty to inform him of the incident. The governor sent a return letter with his condolences. The letter also stated someone from the governors office would look into the matter. The couple hasn't heard anything since.

Following the DNR recommendations Babich started contacting city council members hoping to get something in the city's ordinance changed.

"We don't want someone else to go through this," said Babich.

Eight months later the couple is frustrated with the city's response. After sending numerous letters and e-mails and making phone calls the couple feel like they haven't gotten what they feel is a good response from anybody in the city.

"It's been frustrating," said Babich.

However, the couple learned on Tuesday that the city will take action sometime later this summer.

The city council reviewed the city's ordinance regarding trapping during a work session early this year and directed police chief Gary Kalstabakken to review the ordinance.

"It's very tragic that this happened and we are looking at modifying the ordinance before this fall," said mayor Bill Droste. "I'm surprised people are out there trapping so close to neighborhoods."

In a phone interview, Kalstabakken said he will recommend changes that will put some limitations on where trapping is allowed within the city's limits. He said the recommended changes will be brought before the council sometime prior to the 2008 trapping season which starts in October.

"It's a sad story and it's something that needs to be reviewed," said Kalstabakken.

While the council will make some changes to the ordinance Kalstabakken said residents also need to be aware of private property. The area where Babich and Bella were walking is private.

Although it isn't fenced off and there are no signs up, Kalstabakken said residents need to make themselves aware of private property and stay off it.

"You have to have respect for other people's property," said Kalstabakken.

Babich said he wasn't aware at the time that it was private.

Although still sad about Bella's loss the couple has gotten a new dog. Early this year they welcomed Maya into their family, which Kathleen said has helped them deal with the loss of Bella.

"We weren't sure if we wanted to get another dog but having Maya has helped with the healing," said Kathleen.

In addition, the breeders who sold Bella to the Babiches had another litter of puppies and gave them one. The couple brought home their new yellow lab puppy this week.

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