Welfare performance of animal traps

Traps and devices are used for capturing animals for pest management and hunting. Internationally and within New Zealand, animal welfare concerns have been raised about the use of some traps and devices.

In New Zealand, trap use is regulated by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This Act permits any trap to be used for trapping any species, but it also enables the Minister of Agriculture to recommend to the Governor General traps that should be prohibited because they cause unacceptable pain and suffering.

To enable the welfare performance of traps to be assessed in a standardised way, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) has developed a trap-testing guideline. There are also guidelines for the remote monitoring of live capture traps. Under the Act, the use of animals in research, testing and teaching must be approved by an animal ethics committee. For more information go to https://www.mpi.govt.nz/animals/animal-welfare/animals-research-testing-teaching/.

While not all testing requires approval under the Act, AEC approval is now required to pass the NAWAC Guideline and from January 2021 only those traps tested under AEC approval will be added to the trap summary table.

Trap summary table - Updated November 2023

Traps tested according to the NAWAC trap testing guideline are not ‘NAWAC approved’ or 'MPI approved’. The NAWAC trap testing guideline is a guideline to support manufacturers or importers of traps to independently test their own products in order to make a claim about having passed the guideline, not about having their trap endorsed by NAWAC or MPI.

Trap testing is done by paid contractors in accordance with the NAWAC Guideline. It is up to the manufacturer/importer to find a research or testing organisation to do the trap testing.

In order for a trap manufacturer or importer to say that traps have passed the testing, they must follow the guideline.

General Notes

Traps are only the killing device, so for the trapping operation to achieve the stated purpose and manage risks depends on effective operational planning. The effective use of traps within this operational planning context can be supported by following industry best practice material.

The relative suitability of a trap for an operation is also influenced by criteria not captured here. This may include: capture efficiency, cost of use, user friendliness, non-target animal safety.

Traps listed include the ‘trap system’ which includes the trap and how it is set (that is, additional equipment such as trap covers, and whether the trap is set above ground and how/if it is baited).

The NAWAC guideline (09: Assessing the welfare performance of restraining and kill traps) standardises the testing of welfare performance of restraining traps and kill traps. The tests are designed to give 90% confidence that traps which pass the test will perform below the upper threshold (5 min for class B kill traps) 70% of the time and below the lower threshold (3 min for class B kill traps) 80% of the time.

The NAWAC guideline provides robust standardised information on welfare performance but pass/fail trap results on their own are not an unequivocal determinant of whether the trap should or shouldn’t be used.

Copies of traps that have passed the guideline’s criteria may be available from alternative manufactures and distributors. While these traps may have dimensions that are the same, and clamping force and impact momentum values that are similar, to those of the original trap, for the purposes of this table they cannot be confirmed as having the same welfare performance as the original trap.  The NAWAC trap testing guideline does not provide guidance for mechanical testing of copied trap designs to confirm whether they would meet the trap testing criteria. There are also no validated ranges of mechanical measures within which a trap copy would be considered as sufficiently equivalent to the original trap

Where to find other information on traps 

Biosecurity New Zealand has publicly notified the prohibition of some leg-hold (foot-hold) traps, including the Lanes-Ace gin trap (and similar long-spring traps) and double-coil spring traps of a size 1½ and larger. This prohibition does not restrict the use of the smaller no. 1 models. Details of the prohibition can be found at: http://mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/animal-welfare/traps-and-devices/

The welfare of trapped animals does not depend solely on the trap, but also on how the trap is baited, and where and how the trap is set. Information on how to improve the welfare of trapped animals is provided in the National Possum Control Agencies Publications 'A' series: best practice guidelines for controlling and monitoring vertebrate pests. You can find this publication in the Resources tab. Please note the sale and use of glueboard traps to catch rodents is prohibited in New Zealand. 

For a list of traps tested by Landcare go to: https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/vertebrate-pests/traps