The United States government is blaming an Idaho boy for being injured by a cyanide trap mistakenly placed near his home by a federal official.
According to the Associated Press, 14-year old Canyon Mansfield was playing with his dog last March when he discovered what appeared to be a garden sprinkler. When he moved closer to investigate, he was sprayed with a burst of toxic chemicals.
Placed as a predator-control device by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the trap was meant to curb the local coyote population. Ordinarily deployed on federal lands, the canister was accidentally set up near a residential development.
A lawsuit filed by Mansfield’s family claims that the dog died after coming into contact with the cyanide; Canyon allegedly suffers from headaches nearly a year after the encounter.
The Mansfield family is seeking $75,000 in damages and another $75,000 for pain and suffering.
But, as the Washington Post notes, the government’s placed the blame squarely about Canyon and his parents. Filed Monday by Justice Department attorneys, the government has asked a U.S. District Court to dismiss the suit outright.
The Justice Department has “expressly denied” any “alleged negligence by defendant or its agencies or employees.”
An Associated Press article on the suit says the sprinkler-like devices are called M-44s. They’re used by the Department of Agriculture to protect livestock from animal predation but sometimes kill pets and injure people.
The AP says Mansfield stumbled over an M-44 in March 2017—month after the U.S. government had decided to stop using the traps on federal lands in Idaho.
Attorneys for Canyon and his family say Agriculture employees acknowledge they’d made a mistake, placing cyanide traps on properties managed by the Bureau of Land Management. That admission was glanced over by the Justice Department in its motion to dismiss.
Government attorneys said “that defendant admits that two M-44 devices placed by an employee were discharged in the incident involving CM and his dog.”
The Justice Department’s description of events doesn’t match up with the Mansfields’. Canyon’s suit only mentions one M-44.
That discrepancy, says the Associated Press, has yet to be explained.
“When he reached down and touched the pipe, it exploded with a loud bang, knocking CM to the ground and spewing an orange powdery substance,” claims the lawsuit.
Another separate but related lawsuit, brought by environmental advocacy groups and animal welfare watchdogs, urged the government to explore how predator-killing poisons could threaten federally protected species. As part of a settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to collaborate with the EPA to determine the effect of toxins in nature.
Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, worked on the settlement with the federal government. She says the Justice Department’s response to Mansfield’s claims are lackluster.
“Rather than apologize for having a poisonous device on public lands that injured a young boy and killed his dog, the government instead is using a tactic to blame the boy,” she said.