Canada has led the international development and implementation of trapping systems that continue to improve animal welfare.
Virtually every country in the world permits the trapping of animals for food, commercial, scientific or animal management purposes, and for the protection of endangered species and public safety. This drives the continuing search to develop traps that improve animal welfare and are efficient, safe and practical.
In Canada, the animal welfare improvements in traps and trapping methods over the past two decades have been possible through the collaboration of trappers, governments, researchers and the Fur Institute of Canada.
Begun in 1983, the Institute's trap research, testing and development program has combined traditional knowledge with science and new technologies. Funding from governments, the fur trade and other non-government sources has totalled over $18 million since that time. The program is leading to direct and measurable worldwide benefits to the welfare of animals that will always be trapped for various reasons.
Canada's trap research, testing and development program, led by the Fur Institute of Canada, is the most advanced in the world. As a result, the Institute has gained recognized expertise and a comprehensive database on animal welfare related to trapping systems.
As the Institute's research partner, the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures provides the scientists and laboratory controls needed to test trap performance and to collect the data necessary to ensure their compliance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).
The Institute’s Vegreville Alberta research facility was completed in 1984 at a cost of over $l million. It was specifically designed to enable teams of scientists, engineers, statisticians and technicians to scientifically measure and improve the welfare of animals related to trapping and to advance trap testing methods. All animals housed in the research facility for the testing of traps are cared for and used in accordance with the requirements of the Canadian Council on Animal Care that oversees the use of animals in research and testing.
Results from this facility are being used internationally by manufacturers, government regulators, wildlife scientists and trappers.
An objective of the Fur Institute of Canada and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures is to develop ways to significantly reduce the need for using live animals in tests for evaluating traps.
Advancements in computer technologies and the accumulation of scientific data through live-animal trap tests conducted at the Vegreville facility has made it possible to develop and use Computer Simulation Models (CSM). These models are now being used to rate trapping devices for several species. Development of computer simulation models for other species is ongoing.
To date the use of CSM has eliminated the need to capture, transport, house and use over 1,300 furbearing animals for live-animal trap tests, while saving some $4 million in associated costs.
Animal trapping continues throughout the world for various reasons. However, until recently there were no animal welfare standards for traps. It was on Canada’s recommendation and leadership that scientifically-based trap testing standards have been established. These standards are available for use by any country to measure and compare the welfare performance of different traps.
These standards were approved by the independent International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1999 and reaffirmed in their five-year review in 2004. The standards are used by Canada, and form the basis for trap performance testing as required by the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)
In June 1999, Canada ratified the 1997 Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) with the European Union and Russia. The AIHTS sets out welfare thresholds for trap performance requirements for a total of 19 wild animal species (12 in North America) that are captured for various reasons in those countries. The United States has a separate, but similar Agreement with the European Union.
The AIHTS definition of Humane Trapping Methods "means the traps certified by competent authorities that are in conformity with the AIHTS standards and used in setting conditions specified by the manufacturers."
"The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards is having a measurable impact on animal welfare through the use of certified trapping systems and education programs."
Under the Agreement, traps used for the species listed are evaluated using the ISO testing standards and must subsequently be certified as meeting the AIHTS welfare requirements if they are to be used in Canada, the EU or Russia.
Canada leads other AIHTS signatories in implementing the humane trapping standards.
The 2007-2008 trapping season marked the first year Canadian trappers were required by law to use AIHTS certified traps for certain listed species. This requirement was the first step of a longer three-part process which will lead to regulating the use of only certified traps thereby improving the welfare of animals trapped for various reasons.