A Controversial Court Case Clarifies The Legality Of Trapping And Killing Nuisance Raccoons On Private Property In Pennsylvania

During August of 2017, Pennsylvania lawmakers made some changes to state animal cruelty laws. The new laws stated that nuisance wildlife cannot be trapped or killed in a manner that is generally considered inhumane and/or unnecessary, but state laws do allow property owners to dispose of animals that cause destruction or nuisance pest issues on property, just so long as the nuisance animals are disposed of humanely. However, the new regulations did not define which animals are considered “vermin” or “pests,” which has resulted in a legal grey area concerning the treatment of nuisance raccoons on property. This legal grey area became an issue when a Carrick man was arrested for trapping and drowning raccoons on his property.

During November of 2017, 68 year-old William Killgallon admitted to a police officer that he had regularly trapped raccoons before drowning the animals to death in a barrel of water. The police officer visited Killgallon after being alerted by neighbors who witnessed the man’s questionable pest control methods. In response to Killgallon’s admission, he was arrested on two counts of aggravated animal cruelty under the state’s new wildlife law, which is a felony. Killgallon’s attorney argued that his client should never have been arrested, as raccoons are nuisance animals that residents should have a right to trap and kill. Killgallon’s case was weak since he admitted to letting most of his trapped animals free, except for raccoons, which he claimed to hate. Killgallon’s attorney also claimed that trapping and disposing of nuisance raccoons is no different than a homenwer who traps and kills insect pests and rats. The prosecution countered this reasoning by stating that raccoons are very different from insect pests and rats, and that Killgallon did not kill the raccoon because they were rabid, or even a nuisance; instead, he seemed to kill the raccoons for his own amusement.

While the prosecution did state that killing nuisance wildlife is legal under state law provided that nuisance animals are killed humanely, Killgallon’s repeated acts of racoon drowning were clearly inhumane and unnecessary, making his acts illegal. The prosecution also stated that it is customary to hire a pest control professional to either remove nuisance raccoons from a property, or have professionals handle disposal procedures after raccoons become trapped. The judge suggested that the two sides reach a plea agreement, and if they cannot, then she would make a decision on the case at a later date.

Do you believe that Killgallon’s actions should be legally permissible? Do you think that trapping and killing nuisance raccoons on a property is ever justified, even if the killing is carried out in a humane manner?