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South Salt Lake Journal

Can you catch a raccoon on your property?

Aug 16, 2021 10:18AM ● By Bill Hardesty

SSL Animal Services helps homeowners trap raccoons, skunks and feral cats on their property. (Bill Hardesty/City Journal)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

On July 8, a South Salt Lake resident posted on Facebook, "*WARNING* Attention residents in the area of 3765 South 600 West." The post went on to explain that another resident was using traps to catch small animals on their property, including a cat and a skunk.

At this point, it is important to note, the homeowner was within their legal rights.

"Homeowners are allowed to trap raccoons, skunks and feral cats on their property," Jenica Laws, Animal Services Supervisor South Salt Lake, said.

The major problem was not the catching but how it was done. Neighbors reported to animal services that the trapped animals were left in the extreme heat of early July.

"Having an animal trapped in a cage where they cannot escape the heat or other elements could be considered animal cruelty," Laws said, "This is why we require the traps to be covered and placed in the shade."

After an educational visit with the resident who trapped the animals, animal services required the traps to always be placed in a shaded area. They also required a sheet or a cover over the trap to ensure the trapped animal is protected from the elements. A final requirement was for the homeowner to check the traps regularly throughout the day. When an animal is found, immediately call animal services to pick it up.

What does animal services do after that?

If the animal is a cat, they are scanned for a microchip. If chipped, the owner is notified to pick up the cat. If no chip, they hold the cat for five days. If chipped but not picked up, the cat is held for 10 days. After the hold, animal services takes possession of the cat. The cat is spayed or neutered and placed for adoption. 

The SSL Animal Services shelter is a no-kill shelter. If a cat isn't adopted, animal services works with multiple rescue organizations like the Humane Society of Utah and Best Friend Animal Society to find a forever home. The aim is never to put down an animal.

If the animal is a raccoon, the process is different. The law does not protect raccoons. In Utah, you do not need a trapping or hunting license to euthanize them. The Division of Natural Resources (DNR) has authorized SSL Animal Services to euthanize raccoons when they are received.

If a skunk is trapped, it might be euthanized or released depending on the type of skunk. If it is a striped skunk with a single thick strip or two thinner stripes running across the back and tail (think Pepé Le Pew), they are not protected by law. DNR recommends striped skunks be euthanized, or they can be released. If a spotted skunk, which has patches of white rather than a line, is trapped, it is protected. Animal services release them into the wild.


Humane traps are available from animal services. The traps are not "neck breakers." A neck breaker trap does what the name suggests. When an animal comes into the trap, a bar comes down, breaking the neck. Some experts promote this idea because death comes quickly. The animal service traps are one-door live-animal traps. Once the trap is set, the animal enters and stands on a lever or plate in the back of the trap. When this happens, a door slides down, trapping the animal.

"No harm comes to the animal when it is being trapped," Laws said.

A $50 deposit is required and refunded when the trap is returned in the same condition. ID is needed and a completed trap loan agreement. Animal services ask people to only use the trap Sunday through Thursday. If the trap is used on Friday or Saturday, or holidays, animal services cannot pick up the trap.

Traps are available to anyone with an ID with an SSL address. Businesses in the city also can borrow a trap.

Pet owners

According to Municipal code 6.12.40, "It is unlawful for the owner or another responsible person having charge, care, custody or control of an animal to allow such animal at any time to run at large." Laws explained this means all "pets, including cats and dogs, need to be on a leash or contained on the owner's property."

The code outlines if any damage occurs by an animal running at large, it is the pet owner's responsibility. It also defines running at large as any animal "found on public property or the property of another and is not under restraint."

"We recommend that you have all your pets microchipped. This helps us identify the pet and the owners so we can reunite the pet with the owner," Laws said.

If animal services does the microchipping, the cost is $15 for SSL residents.