Members of Congress Ted Lieu & Adam Schiff attempt a rescue, but for the moment, mineral oil might help more than legislation
WASHINGTON D.C.––Children and even many adults who visit or even see the La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, Los Angeles, notoriously often awaken screaming from nightmares for weeks and even months afterward.
Formed by bitumen seepage from petroleum deposits about 50,000 years ago, the La Brea Tar Pits leaked––and still leak––a thick gooey mass that tends to lurk beneath tree canopy and apparently placid ponds until unwary creatures step into it, become mired, and slowly sink inextricably down into it, starving, dehydrating, and––if they live that long––eventually suffocating two to three weeks later.
Some of the mightiest mammals ever
As animals slowly die in the tar pits, their cries attract predators, who become mired themselves. Then their rotting remains draw scavengers, who also become mired.
Among the La Brea Tar Pits’ victims have been many of the mightiest mammals ever to inhabit North America, including mastodons, bison, dire wolves, extinct camel species, saber-toothed cats, the 1,500-pound Harlan’s ground sloth, and the western horse, possibly the last horse native to the Americas before going extinct around 11,000 years ago.
The fate of the tarred & feathered
Even those strong enough to pull themselves out suffered the fate of the tarred and feathered, often literally as crows, gulls, eagles, and California condors arrived to peck out their eyes and attack other soft body parts, until they too were caught.
Over centuries stretching into many millennia, the La Brea Tar Pits became a geologically stratified museum of death which, ironically, forms one of the world’s best records of the evolution of life from the late Pleistocene epoch to the present.
First documented in 1769 by Franciscan friar Juan Crespi, secretary to explorer Gaspar de Portola, who became the first Spanish governor of California, the La Brea Tar Pits have been mined for fossils since 1875, yielding more than 750,000 specimens of hideously unfortunate animals, including one young woman who lost her life around 10,250 years ago.
Ted W. Lieu
No rational or even halfway decent person would want the La Brea Tar Pits in his or her closets or under appliances.
Yet millions of Americans and other people worldwide use glue traps to kill rodents, roaches, small snakes, and any other living being small enough to encounter a glue trap and get stuck, without someone close enough and compassionate enough to effect a rescue, using mineral oil or cooking oil to dissolve the sticky poison.
Ted W. Lieu, 54, is a five-term U.S. Representative from the 36th California Congressional District in Los Angeles County. Ted Lieu is also vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, making him the highest ranking Asian-American in the House of Representatives ever.
The Glue Trap Prohibition Act
Emigrating to the U.S. from Taiwan at age three, Ted Lieu did not encounter the La Brea Tar Pits until adulthood. But becoming inextricably mired in anything sticky is every politician’s worst nightmare.
On January 17, 2024, Ted Lieu introduced the Glue Trap Prohibition Act, HR 7018, with co-sponsor Adam Schiff, a fellow Democrat from the 30th California Congressional District, also in Los Angeles County.
The 30th California Congressional District includes the La Brea Tar Pits.
And Adam Schiff in 2023 helped to make West Hollywood, also in his district, the first U.S. city to ban glue traps.
“Among the cruelest ways to eliminate rodents”
HR 7018, promptly referred to the House Agriculture Committee, seeks “to place a national ban on the possession and use of glue traps to catch rodents.
“Glue traps – boards coated with adhesive used to catch and kill pests – are among the cruelest ways to eliminate rodents,” Ted Lieu said in his media release announcing the bill.
“In their attempts to escape the glue, animals may tear off their skin. Some may even gnaw off their own limbs,” Ted Lieu added.
“Animals who do not escape die of blood loss, suffocation, or dehydration. Glue traps also pose a public health risk,” the Lieu media release continued.
Already banned in five nations
“The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention urges Americans not to use glue traps, as ensnared rodents can spread disease.”
Glue traps “are already banned in England, Iceland, Ireland, and New Zealand, as well as in over 100 airports across the country,” Lieu added, not mentioning that a bill to ban glue traps also passed in Wales in October 2023, with a similar bill pending in the Scottish legislature.
Endorsed by Animal Concern Scotland, the Scottish bill is believed to also have a good chance of passage as part of the Wildlife Management & Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, despite a delay won in November 2023 by the British Pest Control Association.
(Muirburn, incidentally, is defined as “the intentional and controlled burning of moorland vegetation to encourage new growth (either heather or grassland) for the management of moorland game and wildlife, or for improving the grazing potential of the moorland for livestock or deer.)
Endorsements from PETA & HSUS
The Glue Trap Prohibition Act, as introduced by Ted Lieu and Adam Schiff, was immediately endorsed by PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman, Humane Society of the United States president Kitty Block, and Sara Amundson, president of the subsidiary Humane Society Legislative Fund.
“Glue traps are cruel and indiscriminate, and probably responsible for more suffering than any other wildlife control product on the market,” argued Democrats for the Protection of Animal president Jim Jensvold.
“Any animal, be it the intended target or a beloved family pet, can be caught in the trap and suffer a slow death by starvation or suffocation,” Jensvold pointed out.
Dave Pauli testifies
Agreed Dave Pauli, of Billings, Montana, “As a four decade wildlife rehabber I have seen too many birds, snakes and other critters caught and suffering in these devices.
“I suspect the pest control lobby will dump on this and it won’t get far in its first hearings,” Pauli told ANIMALS 24-7, “but I think if the rank and file animal sheltering and wildlife rehab professionals grasp this opportunity, one more unnecessary human ‘convenience’ pest control product could be more strictly limited or banned.”
Rising first in opposition to the Glue Trap Prohibition Act appears to have been blogger Christian Britschgi of the libertarian organization Reason.
Where opponent’s head is
After pointing out that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention “also recommends against the use of live traps that don’t harm the animal for the same reason” that it recommends against use of glue traps, Britschgi objected that animals caught in glue traps die of “blood loss, suffocation, or dehydration…only if you let them sit there.”
This, “I concede,” said Britschgi, “is somewhat cruel. It’s also kind of gross, as the whole point of the trap is to kill the rodent and get it out of your house. The easiest way to do this is to slip a plastic bag around the animal and glue trap and either stomp on the bag or hit it with a hammer, dumbbell, or other heavy object.”
Actually the easiest and surest way to keep rodents out of a house is to keep a clean house, with food securely stored in rodent-proof containers such as glass jars.
Keeping a cat or dog also helps, not so much because cats and dogs kill rodents as because rodents tend to avoid places where cats or dogs may be present.
Lieu bill would amend law in effect since 1947
Britschgi also questioned “where exactly Ted Lieu thinks Congress gets the authority to regulate the use of glue traps in private homes,” misrepresenting that the Glue Trap Prohibition Act would amend the existing Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, & Rodenticide Act, which covers the sale of such products across state lines, and has been in effect since 1947.
“Obviously, some people are going to be more concerned than myself with the welfare of vermin,” Britschgi said.
“People also have pets or small children who might get stuck in a glue trap,” Britschgi admitted. “In those cases, perhaps some other type of trap is more appropriate. It seems like that’s something that individuals can decide for themselves.”
But the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, & Rodenticide Act exists in the first place because ordinary consumers, lacking specific relevant expertise and susceptible to advertising, tended to make product choices that put themselves, their families, other people, animals, and the environment at risk.
CVS breaks promise
The Humane Society of the U.S. [HSUS], meanwhile, tried to educate ordinary consumers about glue traps and alternatives to using them with a 1985-1990 campaign directed at getting chain stores to stop selling glue traps.
After the Humane Society of the U.S. apparently gave up, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] took up the cause in 1994, bringing HSUS back into the effort in 1997.
Pressured by HSUS and PETA, the 5,400-store CVS drug chain in March 2006 ceased stocking glue traps for small rodents, but only briefly.
Lowe’s breaks promise
The home improvement chain Lowe’s, “rather than pull the traps from its stores,” PETA charged in October 2009, “chose instead to stock a glue trap that misled consumers by touting the fact that they contain eugenol, an anesthetic derived from clove oil.
“Lowe’s and the glue traps’ manufacturer implied that this reduced animals’ suffering but it doesn’t. And Lowe’s knew that. Now the company that makes the glue trap has been forced to change its packaging.”
A 2008 PETA complaint to the Federal Trade Commission about allegedly misleading advertising by the glue trap maker Motomco led to a change in the wording used to sell glue traps, but Motomco and Lowe’s continued to sell them.
Home Depot breaks promise
“During discussions between PETA and Home Depot regarding the company’s sale of glue traps,” PETA said in 2017, “a Home Depot employee found a mouse suffering in a glue trap inside one of its own stores.
“After witnessing firsthand how animals suffer as they struggle in the traps’ adhesive, Home Depot decided to prohibit the use of glue traps in its more than 2,200 stores nationwide.”
But that also did not last. Home Depot still sells glue traps, along with practically every other store chain in the grocery and hardware industries.
The suffering of small animals caught in glue traps, meanwhile, may be much less dramatic than that of long dead mastodons, bison, dire wolves, camels, saber-toothed cats, ground sloths, and western horses, whose agony ended tens of thousands of years ago, but remains the same nightmare that keeps La Brea Tar Pits visitors waking with screams.