Fences ending with sharp rods are a deadly threat to people and animals – scientists warn and urge people to minimize this threat by building even backyard fences. They draw attention to the problem in a campaign called #spikeless.
The problem was brought to the attention of the ClientEarth Lawyers for the Earth Foundation and the Institute of Mammal Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża, who wrote to the ministries about it in 2019, calling for changes to the regulations.
Accidents involving animals on fences with sharp metal elements occur quite often – emphasizes the director of IBS PAN in Białowieża, Dr. Hab. Rafał Kowalczyk. Animals: moose, deer, roe deer, die seriously injured and in agony hanging on such fences after trying to jump over them.
About the #thornless campaign, “A moose is not a thief! Are you building a fence? Give up the spikes!’, which is intended to raise awareness of the danger of sharp-edged fences, Professor Kowalczyk recalled in an interview with PAP after hearing that another such accident had occurred in Podlasie in recent days.
Last Wednesday, in Klepaczy near Białystok, two moose – a klępa and a łoszak – hung on a metal fence. It happened before noon in the very busy center of the town, near the fire station and the bus stop. The animals were probably wandering through the fields and gardens adjacent to the property and at this point they decided to cross the asphalt road.
The seriously injured ones did not survive and the veterinarian called to the scene had to euthanize them to end their suffering. According to witnesses, the female easily crossed the fence, but when the young moose, which impaled itself on the bars with its underbelly, was unable to do so, it tried to jump over the steel fence in the other direction and then she also got hung on it. The firefighters called to this action eventually had to use a special lift to remove the body of the larger animal.
IBS and ClientEarth raised in 2019 in a letter to the Ministry of Development (also sent to the attention of the Ministry of the Environment, General Directorate for Environmental Protection, and the Chief Inspector of Construction Supervision) that in order to increase safety, e.g., the height of the fence should be increased from 1.8 m to two meters where install sharp ends and respect other existing regulations.
The Ministry of Development responded in January 2020 (IBS made these responses available to PAP) that it would analyze the problem. It reminded that according to applicable regulations, the construction of a fence should be reported to the architectural and construction administration only if it is higher than 2.2 m, and the construction of a lower one does not require any notifications. It was added that the fence must not pose any danger to people and animals, and placing sharp elements or barbed wire on fences at a height of less than 1.8 meters is prohibited, but is allowed above 1.8 meters. Scientists emphasize that these regulations are not respected
This law is dead and I suspect that this is mainly due to society’s ignorance of the requirements for fences. Secondly, no one respects it, said Kowalczyk.
The Podlasie police told PAP that no proceedings are carried out when there is an accident involving an animal that dies on a fence.
Rafał Kowalczyk says that, for example, a moose is able to jump over a two-meter high fence if it does not have a sharp end. When it gets caught on a sharp metal element, it cannot get out, it presses with its weight and suffers deep wounds. He added that there are plenty of fences around with sharp ends less than 1.8 meters high, and such fences are also common in stores. – So most of these fences are illegal – he said.
The director of IBS PAN emphasizes that the point is not to punish the owners of houses and fences, but to make everyone aware that sharp fences are also dangerous for people: adults and children. He said that he himself had knowledge of such accidents that occurred when property owners – not intruders – had an accident while trying to climb through such a fence.