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Trapping standards

In 1995 the European Union banned the importation of wild fur products from countries using jaw-type leghold traps. Since the EU was one of the biggest importers of Canadian fur products, Canada worked quickly to have European markets open to their products again by joining Russia – and later the United States×in signing the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. The objectives of the agreement are to facilitate and improve trade between countries while ensuring humane methods are used for trapping.

The Agreement outlines science-based standards for the trapping industry and applies to trapping for pest control, conservation, fur and food. The standards apply to 12 Canadian wild terrestrial and semi-aquatic animals: beaver, muskrat, otter, weasel, marten, fisher, raccoon, badger, coyote, wolf, lynx, and bobcat.

To ensure compliance with the Agreement, each country must implement a system to test traps. Those which meet the standards must then be certified and identified so trapping can be effectively regulated.

Certain types of both killing and restraining traps are permitted in the Agreement. Some key requirements include:

Restraining Traps

  • At least 80 % of trapped animals must not show any signs of poor welfare
  • Indicators of poor welfare include: self-mutilation, excessive immobility, fracture, severance of tendon or ligament, severe external haemorrhage, internal haemorrhage, skeletal muscle degeneration, spinal cord injury, severe internal organ damage, amputation, death
  • Steel-jawed leghold traps are prohibited but other leghold traps, such as padded and offset traps, are permitted
  • Power and common neck snares are prohibited except underwater
  • Body grip traps are permitted until June 2007
  • Traditional wooden deadfall traps are permitted

If traps do not meet standards by 2007, they will be permitted until traps have been designed that do meet standards.

Time between trapping and loss of consciousness or death for killing traps:

  • 45 seconds for ermines
  • 2 minutes for martens
  • 5 minutes for all other species

According to the Agreement, these times were to be evaluated after three years with the intent of decreasing the 5-minute time to 3 minutes.

Compliance with the Agreement is coordinated by the Fur Institute of Canada. Provinces and territories are responsible for the administration of the Canadian Trap Certification Program, and its regulation, in their respective jurisdictions.

While the Agreement is an important step towards humane trapping, CFHS… recognizes that the traps permitted are not as humane as they could be. Concerns include the following:

  • Restraining traps leave an animal to suffer great stress and pain, and ideally standards would prevent an animal from suffering in this way.
  • The agreement requires that at least 80% of animals trapped in restraining devices not show signs of poor welfare, leaving room for 20% to suffer severe injury.
  • Killing traps should cause instant death but the Agreement permits some animals to struggle for up to five minutes – and 20 % are permitted to exceed that time.
  • Although the steel jaw leghold trap is outlawed in Canada, other leghold traps that cause suffering are still widely used
  • Foxes and mink are not included in the agreement.
  • Traps classified as inhumane can still be used while research is ongoing, which means their use can continue indefinitely.
  • Snares, which are very inhumane, are still permitted.
  • The standard for the time between trapping and loss of consciousness or death for killing traps has not been decreased as was originally intended.

The Agreement is a good step in the right direction and CFHS… hopes that improvements will continue to be made for animal welfare in trapping.

For a chart of traps prohibited and allowed, see the government of Manitoba site here.

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