Wildlife Services Trapper Can't Wriggle Out After Injuring Dog

A federal judge has ruled that an Arizona animal cruelty case, involving a former employee of USDA’s Wildlife Services who trapped and severely injured his neighbor's dog, can go forward. The accused, Russell Files, had sought to dismiss the case, claiming that he was immune from state prosecution because his job with the federal government permitted him to trap animals.

Files was an “urban specialist” authorized by Wildlife Services to shoot pigeons, capture ducks, and trap coyotes. The following events allegedly occurred after Britan and Lindsay Hartt moved into Files’ neighborhood with their Australian cattle dog, Zoey, in 2010: Files became upset when the dog began wandering onto his property. In December 2012, according to the testimony of one of Files’ Wildlife Services supervisors, Files requested and was granted permission to trap multiple “feral, free-roaming dogs” in his neighborhood. He then baited a trap and placed it in his yard. Subsequently, Zoey was caught by her front left and back left paws. She lost 17 teeth attempting to free herself. Files later resigned from Wildlife Services.

In denying Files’ motion to dismiss the case, US District Court Judge Jack Zouhary ruled that the federal supremacy clause Files hoped to use as cover does not apply because Files was not truthful with his supervisors about his plans. The judge added, "This court is convinced that Files set out to trap Zoey not because he felt it was part of his job to do so, but because he sought to use the tools of his job and the authority of an urban specialist to satisfy a personal problem.”