Learn what you can do to protect animals like Wilson!

At the end of May, the Westport animal control and police department contacted the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) asking for assistance with a cat caught in an illegal trap.

cat caught in illegal leg hold trap

A close-up of Wilson’s paw caught in the illegal leg hold trap and after it had been treated by emergency and ARL veterinarians.

A concerned citizen had spotted the approximately 6-year-old stray orange and white cat, now named Wilson, struggling with a heavy metal object attached to his right leg. Officials identified the metal object as an illegal leg hold trap.

Leg hold traps are a hunting tool widely considered inhumane due to the severe injury they can inflict on an animal, such as bone fractures, amputations, or even death. Once a trap is set, any animal can trigger it, putting domesticated animals such as dogs and cats like Wilson at risk.

Once captured, Westport animal control and police rushed Wilson to Mass-RI Veterinary ER animal hospital in Swansea.  After his right leg was freed from the leg hold trap, veterinarians observed incredible swelling in Wilson’s front paw and he couldn’t move his right leg properly. Thankfully, they did believe Wilson’s leg would heal.

Two days later, Wilson came to the ARL’s Boston shelter, where he was examined by lead shelter veterinarian Dr. Erin Doyle. “On initial exam, Wilson’s right paw was significantly less swollen than it had been at the hospital and he was able to bear weight on it approximately 50% of the time.”

The superficial wounds related to the trap itself were healing very well.  Just days after his ordeal, Wilson only had a faint limp when we walked and the swelling in his right paw was almost completely gone.

“Fortunately, Wilson’s injuries were much less severe than they could have been,” Dr. Doyle was relieved to report. “His right front leg and paw will return to normal function.”

According to Dr. Doyle, Wilson is ready to find a new home.  He has clearly become one of her favorite patients: “Wilson is a super sweet cat! Through all of the time I’ve spent with him handling his injured paw, he hasn’t grumbled a bit.”

Unfortunately, difficult stories like Wilson’s are sometimes what bring cats into our shelters. During Adopt-a-Cat Month this June, consider adopting cats like Wilson and give them a chance at a better life!  For more information on Wilson or other available adoptable cats, call or visit our Boston Shelter at or visit arlboston.org/adopt.

illegal leg hold trap

Law enforcement’s photo of Wilson’s fur still caught in the illegal leg hold trap, even after it had been safely removed from his paw.

The ARL and other animal welfare organizations in Massachusetts successfully pushed for legislation in 1996 to prohibit the use of leg hold traps.  By current State law setting a leg hold traps is against the law, except in a handful of specific instances.

The ARL urges the public to learn more about proposed legislation that would repeal or loosen restrictions on the use of leg hold traps at https://malegislature.gov/Bills and use the search term “trapping.”

Registered voters should contact their legislators to oppose any change to the current law.  Find your legislator


If you see something, say something. If you have any information related to Wilson or the leg hold trap, please contact the Westport Police Department at (508) 636-1122.

Watch out for and report animal traps. Keep an eye on outdoor pets during the summer and report any illegal animal traps that you come across to your local police department.

Donate to help animals like Wilson recover from injury and abuse…and protect them from harm in the future.