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. This guideline is below:



1.The DOC 150/200/250 trap designs may be available from alternative manufactures and distributors under different names. These traps can be regarded as having the same animal welfare performance if it is proven that: dimensions are the same and clamping force and impact momentum values are not less than the DOC series trap; and triggering weight is calibrated in accordance with best practice.

2.The NAWAC guideline test status reported here is applicable to the currently available (unmodified) trap as sold. A modified version of the Victor snapback was tested and passed the NAWAC guideline for Norway rats. A series of modifications led to a version of the Snap E that passed for ship rats but failed for Norway rats.

3.There are a range of other models No.1 unpadded and No. 1.5 padded leghold traps available of the same jaw spread and similar design.

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 test 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. Other criteria and/or a lack of viable alternatives may justify the continued use (with efforts to modify the trap or find alternatives with improved welfare performance) of a trap that has failed to meet the NAWAC guideline.

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 Library tab.

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