Glue Traps
An Animal Rights Article from


George Shea
October 2007

A mouse caught in a glue trap may struggle for days, eventually dying from starvation, dehydration or loss of blood after it has chewed off one or more of its own limbs trying to escape. It can take anywhere from three to five days for the animal to finally die. Veterinarians have issued affidavits condemning their use.

Twenty years ago, I bought my first and last glue trap. When a rat showed up one day in my New York apartment, a neighbor said, "You better go get yourself a glue trap." I went to a hardware store and bought one. If you've never seen one, a glue trap is a small plastic tray that contains a batch of very sticky, fairly clear glue with some bait on top. A rat or mouse steps into the glue and is a goner.

The next morning I placed the glue trap on my kitchen floor and went off to work. I wasn't prepared for what I found when I came home. I walked in on a desperate, terrified mouse struggling hopelessly for its life in the trap. His legs were going as fast as they possibly could. And the harder it tried to escape, the more stuck it became. Most humans never see a mouse's eyes up close. But this one was stuck and its eyes were filled with pure terror. That terror multiplied tenfold when it saw me.

My first thought was to try and save it, but how? I decided to try warm water to dissolve the glue. I picked up the tray and turned on the tap in the kitchen sink. I ran a little water into the glue and looked down. Only a few seconds had passed but the little creature was dead. I don't believe it drowned. I presumed it died of fright.

I never forgot that experience and I've been bitterly opposed to the sale and manufacture of glue traps ever since. Until quite recently, their use and sale has been largely commercial and limited to hardware stores and outlets like Home Depot. They have not been a mainstream consumer item widely available to the general public. If you wanted a glue trap you had to go look for one.

Now, sadly, that is changing. In recent months, major retail drug chains like Walgreen's, CVS and Rite Aid, as well as many supermarkets have started stocking glue traps. Glue traps are currently on sale in as many as 20,000 community drugstores, groceries and supermarkets all over the U.S. In many stores, they are more numerous than traditional snap traps, which kill, but usually do it at least quickly.

A mouse caught in a glue trap may struggle for days, eventually dying from starvation, dehydration or loss of blood after it has chewed off one or more of its own limbs trying to escape. It can take anywhere from three to five days for the animal to finally die. Veterinarians have issued affidavits condemning their use and the State of Victoria, Australia is imposing a $1000 fine for anyone caught selling or using one.

When I was a child and there was a mouse in the house, I watched my parents late at night set wooden snap traps usually baited with a bit of cheese. The next morning I would come into the kitchen and find a little gray mouse dead, its neck broken by the deadly force of the spring trap. I remember feling badly for the little creature. But the animal was already dead and my parents assured me it hadn't really suffered.

When I saw glue traps in drug stores and supermarkets in Los Angeles this past spring, my first thought was of that terrified struggling mouse years ago in my New York apartment. The sight had horrified me then when I was already an adult. I wondered how that same experience would affect a young impressionable child today.

My first impulse was to hide the traps, get them out of sight. If they couldn't be seen, they couldn't be bought and used. I scooped up twenty or so of the traps, every one I could find, and hid them all over the store, behind half gallon jugs of Coca Cola, anything large enough to conceal them from view.

I came back to the store and did this every other day for three weeks. I knew that, sooner or later, the odds were I would be caught. One day I was hard at work hiding the traps when I was stopped by the store manager. He seemed young and intelligent and told me, “I admire your passion.” He let me know he didn't feel morally right himself about the store's recent decision to sell the traps. But my actions were disrupting business, creating extra work for his stock clerks and so, as politely as possible, he asked me to desist and leave the store.

I left feeling defeated. I knew that all those glue traps would almost immediately be on sale again, I thought about that terrified mouse years ago. I walked around in the street for a while and then went back into the store. I went up to the manager and said, “Listen, I'll buy every damned glue trap you've got. I just want to get rid of them,” and added I'd appreciate it if maybe he'd just “forget” to re-order them. He smiled and said he'd think about it. I believed he would. I paid for $160.87 worth of glue traps and carted them home and stuck them away in a closet in my office. I figured my wife who is a lot more frugal than I, would be slightly horrified if she found out I now owned most of the glue traps in the neighborhood.

That was six weeks ago. I've visited that store a number of times since that day. My hunch about the store manager was right. It no longer sells glue traps. A small victory. But that one store has hundreds of other branches and there are now something like 20,000 chain drug, convenience and supermarkets around the country selling glue traps. The names of these stores are quite familiar to anyone who ever bought a tube of toothpaste. Just pay a visit to the “Hardware” or “Insecticide” department of your local chain drug or supermarket and you'll see what I mean. If each of these stores sells only ten traps a month, that's 200,000 mice and rats dying slow horrific torturous deaths.

There are, by the way, humane box-type traps available in stores and online from hardware stores and humane societies. They work with a trap door that closes behind the animal once it enters the trap. The trap can then be taken outdoors where the animal is released. These traps cost only five to ten dollars more than glue traps but would certainly profit stores much more financially than the glue torture trays. They would also produce a tremendous reduction in suffering by “bystander”animals (birds and household pets also sometimes get stuck in the glue) as well as to young children unfortunate enough to have to witness the event.

Aaron Burrow wrote to us and told us that vegetable oil can be used to release mice from the glue. Read about his first-hand experience:
Aaron and the Glue-Trapped Mouse.

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