SSPCA reminds trap operators of animal welfare obligations

Press release from the Scottish SPCA (8th April 2020)

Scottish SPCA appeals to trap and snare operators to fulfil welfare obligation

The Scottish SPCA has appealed for those who operate traps and snares to fulfil their legal welfare obligation of not causing unnecessary suffering to the animals caught in them.

Scotland’s animal welfare charity is offering to assist those who cannot leave their house due to current Government restrictions or if they are self-isolating.

Traps and snares can be set legally to control certain species but because of restriction of movement, they may now be illegal.

[Buzzard caught inside a crow trap. It’s not illegal to trap buzzards in these traps but it becomes illegal if the trap isn’t checked by the operator at least once every 24hrs and the buzzard released immediately upon discovery. Photo RSPB]

Scottish SPCA special investigations unit chief inspector, who cannot be named due to undercover operations, said:

During the pandemic we understand that there is restricted movement and that people may be unwell or self-isolating.

Our concern is that those who may have set traps or snares may be in this situation and not able to get back to them within the legal timeframe of once every 24 hours. We have had evidence of creatures being confined for longer and dying of stress or starvation as a result of not being able to get free.

As the snares and traps will have not been checked within this timeframe, they will now be illegal and the person responsible for them will be breaking the law.

We are here to help anyone who finds themselves in these circumstances. People can contact us and let us know the whereabouts of the devices and we will attend and make them safe so that no animal will suffer.

We are willing to work with land managers and trap snare operators to ensure animal welfare law is being adhered to.

If anyone has any information relating to traps or snares they believe are not being checked, then this can be reported to us in confidence and we will investigate.

People can contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999 and we will do all we can to assist.”


The legal obligation to check a trap at least once within every 24hr period applies only to what are called ‘live catch’ traps, i.e. traps designed to hold the trapped animal, alive. This includes snares and traps such as Larsen and crow cage traps that use live decoys to attract other victims. In Scotland snare operators and crow cage trap operators now need to have unique identification codes placed on their equipment so the police can identify an individual trap user if it is suspected the trap is being used unlawfully and/or is unchecked.

There is no legal duty to check other types of traps that are designed to kill the trapped animal immediately (e.g. legally-set spring traps).

11 thoughts on “SSPCA reminds trap operators of animal welfare obligations”

  1. Well reported RPUK and SSPCA. Anybody deciding to exercise in areas where there may be traps and snares set, then please report anything you find and consider may be illegal or where you may believe animals are or could suffer.

    1. Actually I think the SSPCA’s response is rather pathetic, and at this time in particular I don’t expect them to receive a flood of reports (coming from who?). Unless they’re using drones to inspect the grouse moors for example, which might even be illegal or at least frowned upon. As for “We are willing to work with estate managers and trap operators,” well all I can say is “no chance.” What this actually illustrates is the feeble nature of wildlife legislation in the UK. Far too many bird species and other animals are slaughtered needlessly, mainly by game shooting and agricultural interests. I won’t list them all here, but most ecologists and ornithologists will get my drift.

      1. Yes,“We are willing to work with estate managers and trap operators,”

        That sounds like being complicit in managing cruelty.

        SSPCA …………… you can do better. You know that.

  2. Not sure how offering to disarm a live trap for the purposes of preventing potential animal suffering can be viewed as ‘complicit in managing cruelty’.

    This offer from the SSPCA is actually quite shrewd, and not just on animal welfare grounds. It’s worth remembering that the issue of extra powers for the SSPCA to investigate more wildlife crime is back on the table, currently under consideration by the cross-party ECCLR Committee as part of their scrutiny of the Animals & Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill (or at least it was until the coronavirus suspended play).

    This offer from the SSPCA shows how it is willing to work in partnership in the interest of animal welfare – something for which it has previously been accused of failing to do. Judging by some of the reactions on display by some members of the shooting community on social media this evening, it isn’t the SSPCA with the problem. This won’t go unnoticed by the politicians, you can be sure of that.

  3. I suppose that it was too much to ask, or even think, that the various shooting-related bodies such as the MA, NGO, BASC, GWCT etc. would have asked their members to stand-down their traps and snares during the current crisis. That way there would have been no risk from traps and snares containing live birds and mammals being unvisited.

    Apologies if they have, indeed, done so and it’s gone unnoticed.

  4. Whilst I think there is just about zero chance of any land owners contacting the SSPCA I am pleased that at least this issue is being highlighted to the public.

    I appreciate that there are lots of traps RPUK could have mentioned but one pretty popular live catch trap which should be checked every 24 hours is the rabbit drop trap.

    These revolting traps are metal boxes about 2ft wide x 2.5ft long x 2ft deep. The boxes are placed in holes dug at cross angles to fence lines with tell-tale chicken wire (rather than pig wire) to prevent target animals (rabbits) from crossing from one side to the other. A metal tunnel crosses the base of the fence line to allow animals access from one side to the other. The tunnel, however, has a drop trap ‘floor’ which is counter-balanced by metal bars. Once an animal places its full weight on the drop ‘floor’ then the counter-balance is unable to hold the ‘floor’ in place. The drop ‘floor’ tips down tossing the animal or bird into the metal box. Once the animal or bird falls off the floor plate then the counter-balance bars swing the floor plate back into its original position trapping the animal or bird in the box with no food, water or light until they are removed – supposedly within 24 hours.

    I once come across a rabbit drop trap that was almost full of bodies of animals (prey and predatori) and (iirc) a bird. At the time I thought it was legal and never reported it. It was sickening and still makes me feel annoyed when I think of drop traps.

  5. Still somewhat puzzled why gamekeeping is deemed essential and necessary work, surely there are no plans for any shoots in the near future whilst there is a stay at home policy operating?

    It would seem to me to be a humane gesture to suspend live traps at the moment ….. then again, more likely killing will continue as they will be trying to close down areas to folk exercising ….

    1. It’s a fair question, although the opening of the grouse shooting season is still some months away and many are anticipating that social distancing rules will have been relaxed by then.

      The partridge & pheasant shooting seasons open even later (1 Sept and 1 Oct respectively), although some shoots appear to have already abandoned plans for shooting this year because punters aren’t willing to pay deposits amidst all the uncertainty. Without deposits a lot shoots won’t risk ordering and paying for poults now.

      1. Under current crisis management the future prediction changes so much day to day, and the UK Government is already speaking of certain matters being shifted chronologically. From Boris’s “give us a month” to reinstate normality (or near it), the talk now is for continuing current sanctions for at least a year. I’m sure the shooting community won’t just be sitting there twiddling their thumbs! They’ll be revising their plans to give them a bumper season, having already started by recent heather burning which was excessive by anyone’s purpose. And how many harriers have already been shot?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: