Who will enforce Roxy’s Law?

The New Mexico Legislature (barely) passed the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, better known as Roxy’s Law, making some forms of trapping on public land a misdemeanor, effective April 1, 2022. That’s no April Fool’s joke: the law will not take effect for a year.

Any law outlawing any form of trapping is a step forward for wildlife, however small. But in a state with a poor history of law enforcement and a game department which promotes hunting and trapping, one might wonder whether this law will provide any real protection for dogs on hiking trails, the main motivation for passing the law, not to mention (as legislators and lobbyists rarely do) wildlife. The answer may be found in an obscure 1912 state law still on the books.

According to Section 17-2-20 NMSA 1978: “Every net, trap, explosive, poisonous or stupefying substance, or device used or intended for use in taking or killing game or fish in violation of this chapter is declared to be a public nuisance and may be abated and summarily destroyed by any person and it shall be the duty of every officer authorized to enforce this chapter to seize and summarily destroy the same and no prosecution or suit shall be maintained for such destruction.”

I am not an attorney, but my reading of this century-old law is that once Roxy’s Law takes effect, anyone has the legal right to seize or destroy a trap (such as a steel-jawed leghold trap) or a poisonous device (such as an M-44) found on public land. Moreover, conservation officers now have a legal duty to seize and destroy traps and poisons found on public land. Or to put it simply, New Mexicans will soon have the legal right to “steal traps.”

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