Each year, around 5 million wild animals, including coyotes, foxes and bobcats, are caught and killed in wild traps, mainly in the US, Canada and Russia, although trapping does occur in other countries too on a smaller scale.

Traps are indiscriminate, catching the first animal to step on them. Countless dogs and cats, deer, birds and other animals—including threatened and endangered animals—are also injured and killed each year by the traps. These animals are referred to by trappers as ‘trash’.

Trap checking times range from once every 24 hours to once every 14 days. The regulations on trapping are weak and extremely difficult to enforce, which means untold amounts of animal suffering goes undocumented and uninvestigated.

Trappers are rarely prosecuted when a pet is caught by a trap. Trapping is a largely unregulated activity, and where restrictions do apply, they are poorly enforced. In most cases, trappers do not leave identification on their traps, so trappers cannot be traced or fined for neglecting their traps.

Welfare problems

Trapping is an inherently violent practice. Traps that are used, including steel-jaw leghold traps, body-gripping traps, and wire neck snares, are inhumane devices that inflict great pain and suffering. The traps are designed to crush animals in a vice like grip rather than kill them – meaning they can’t fend off predators.

In a letter to US Congress, Collin Wolff, a New Mexico veterinarian, wrote:

“The undeniable truth is these bone-crushing devices are inherently indiscriminate and inhumane.”

Many animals die trying to free themselves, next to dehydration, blood loss and hypothermia. Often animals become so desperate, they resort to chewing or wringing off their own trapped limb in order to escape, breaking teeth and bones in the process. Trappers refer to this as ‘ring-off’.

Some may die from blood loss or shock but most animals will be trapped for days before the trapper returns to kill them. When the trapper finally returns, to avoid damaging the pelt, the animal is bludgeoned, choked, or stomped to death.

Over 100 countries, including the EU and China, have prohibited the use of the steel-jaw leghold trap. But in the United States, steel-jaw traps are not only legal, they are the go-to tool for trappers who capture and kill millions of wild animals a year for the global fur market.

Both the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association have declared the steel-jaw leghold trap to be inhumane.

In September 2019, California became the first state in the US to ban trapping for commercial and recreational purpose.

Pets and traps

Traps, be it steel-jawed leghold traps, conibear traps, or snares, are inherently indiscriminate. Each year, traps in the United States injure and kill millions of “nontarget” animals—domestic dogs and cats, rabbits, deer, songbirds, raptors, livestock, and even endangered species. Referred to as “trash” animals, nontarget wildlife often are simply thrown away. Injuries from leghold traps are often so severe that the injured limb of a trapped companion animal must be amputated. Conibear traps, however, kill many of their unintended victims.

  • Nita Lowey, US Congresswoman

    "Indiscriminate body-gripping traps on public land affect the welfare of wild animals and humans alike.”

  • Lorena Gonzalez, California Assemblywoman (2019)

    “Fur trapping is a cruel practice that has no place in 21st century California.”

  • Corey Booker, US Senator

    “These cruel traps don’t distinguish between targeted animals and protected animals, endangered species or pets, and are a safety hazard to people. It’s past time to remove this antiquated and inhumane practice from federal wildlife refuges.”