What Are Humane Traps?
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals
July 2018

Any device designed to hold an animal against their will – and particularly one that allows them to suffer for hours or even days (which is legal with many of these traps) – cannot be humane. They’re just cruel.


Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)

The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards sounds nice, especially when you’re ready to trap and hold or trap and kill an animal. But what that agreement really does for animals is far from how the spin from trappers.

The Agreement does not make humane traps. It led to long-term testing of traps (costing taxpayers millions) to find ways to make the immediate damage caused by traps less cruel.

For example, with leg-hold traps certified as “humane” under the Agreement:

  • 80% of animals must "not show any signs of poor welfare" ("poor welfare" means no self-mutilation, excessive immobility, fractures, severance of tendon or ligament, severe external haemorrhage, internal haemorrhage, skeletal muscle degeneration, spinal cord injury, severe internal organ damage, amputation and death). This is impossible to verify as accurate in the wild, as the nature of trapping makes it almost impossible for enforcement officers to ensure animals aren't suffering in the above-mentioned ways. This is especially true given that traps are not selective.
  • Since only 80% of the animals even have to be 'protected' on paper, this means that of the 47,340 coyotes trapped for their fur in 2009, under the AIHTS agreement, 9,468 of them are even 'allowed' to show signs of 'poor welfare'.

padded trap
"Padded" trap

Additionally, many of the injuries sustained do not occur from the trap itself, but from a wild animal being restrained – and doing whatever it takes to get away from the device holding them against their will. Speaking with any humane society, wildlife rehabilitator, or advocate who has witnessed the damage a “humane” trap can do will give anyone pause.

Bella broke 17 teeth after moments in a leg-hold trap

It took only minutes for Bella to break 17 teeth. Her paw was seriously mangled. And her family had to pay over $5,000 in veterinary bills from a specialist hundreds of kilometres away. The story is sadly familiar: Bella walked into the clutches of a leg-hold trap.

Dog Bella

According to the CBC, Peg Pelley of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador was out with her two dogs in late November. She was within the town limits and on a quiet road when she called back the dogs – and only one returned.

"So I listened and I could hear Bella crying and screeching out," Pelley told the CBC. A passing snowmobiler, John Hudson, found Bella nearby, just off the road with her paw stuck in the trap.

"She was chewing on the trap trying to get out of it,” said Pelley in her interview. “So I got down there and I held her head away from the trap and John did everything in the world to try to get the trap open and of course we were both very upset and she was crying and he couldn't get it open. There's no way he could get it open."

Good Samaritan Hudson retrieved tools and with tremendous effort was able to eventually remove the trap.

Bella and her family will have to fly to Montreal to have several teeth removed – and hopefully the rest saved.

"She was rescued. She was rescue dog,” said Pelley. “And I sort of promised her that nothing would ever hurt her again. But I really feel responsible...It's hard to see her suffer like that. I have a lot of health issues and they're the ones that kept me going when I wanted to give up."

Wildlife officials are investigating the matter but it’s unknown if charges will be laid – let alone the trapper identified.


Humane traps, under the agreement, include leg-hold traps, foot-hold traps, Conibear traps (like giant rat traps), and others. All of these traps can and do catch dogs, cats, and other non-target species.

Any device designed to hold an animal against their will – and particularly one that allows them to suffer for hours or even days (which is legal with many of these traps) – cannot be humane. They’re just cruel.

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