MSPCA-Angell Files Animal Cruelty Charge in Grisly Death of Trapped Skunk

September 10, 2013

BOSTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – The MSPCA-Angell’s Law Enforcement department announced today it has filed animal cruelty charges against Dennis Duval of Worcester, Mass. after a wild skunk attempted to chew its front right leg off in a desperate bid to escape a trap Duval illegally placed in his yard.  Duval will be arraigned in Worcester Court House on Oct. 23, where he will face one count of felony animal cruelty.

The news comes as five pro-trapping bills are up for consideration in the Massachusetts State House.  Any one of the bills, if passed, would chip away at hard-earned protections the MSPCA and other animal welfare organizations have championed for decades to protect wildlife, pets and people from indiscriminate trapping.

Alive but fatally wounded

The "leg-hold" trap that ensnared the skunk and ultimately led to its death (credit: MSPCA-Angell)

The young male skunk was discovered alive but gravely wounded on Aug. 15 by Worcester animal control officer Pat Cherry, who brought the animal to a local veterinarian where it was humanely euthanized.  Cherry immediately called MSPCA Law Enforcement Sergeant Peter Oberton who, after reviewing trap and photos taken by Dr. Ponciano Salazar of Webster Square Animal Clinic, Inc., determined to move forward with prosecuting Duval.

“This skunk endured unspeakable suffering once its leg became ensnared by the trap,” said Sgt. Oberton.  “The pain of having its leg crushed by the trap was compounded by the fear he would have felt, which forced him to try to chew his own leg off in order to survive.”

The type of trap set by Duval, commonly referred to as a “leg-hold” trap, is designed to snap shut when an animal steps inside it.  The trap’s steel jaws snap so quickly that there is no possibility of escape—and skin, bone and connective tissue are often immediately shattered.  The inherent cruelty of leg-hold traps prompted Massachusetts voters to ban them in 1996, making use of the trap a felony charge.  If convicted he could face up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Following Duval’s arraignment a trial date will be set by the court.

The MSPCA’s Advocacy team, which lobbies lawmakers on behalf of legislation to protect animals, sees more incidents like this if any one of the pro-trapping bills currently under consideration were to succeed.  “Passage of legislation that would expand the use of body-gripping traps would all but ensure that more animals—including pets such as dogs and cats—will be caught or killed by these traps,” said Linda Huebner, deputy director of Advocacy at the MSPCA-Angell.

The MSPCA-Angell Law Enforcement team works with the organization’s adoption centers, hospital and advocacy experts to investigate animal abuse in Massachusetts.  In 2012 the department investigated over 2,000 animal cruelty complaints around the Commonwealth.  Readers can click here if they would like to donate to the MSPCA’s Law Enforcement department as it investigates alleged animal cruelty cases. 


The MSPCA-Angell is a national and international leader in animal protection and veterinary medicine and provides direct hands-on care for thousands of animals each year. Founded in 1868, it is the second-oldest humane society in the United States. Services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and world-class veterinary care. The MSPCA-Angell is a private, non-profit organization. It does not receive any government funding nor is it funded or operated by any national humane organization. The MSPCA-Angell relies solely on the support and contributions of individuals who care about animals. Please visit