Use of traps is regulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2008. These regulations specify the types of traps that can be used, the conditions of use and where they can be used. If you are intending to use traps you must ensure you are meeting the legal requirements. This fact sheet provides a summary of the regulatory requirements for leghold traps.
What is a leghold trap and for which species can they be used?
A leghold trap is a jawed spring-operated trap designed to capture an animal by the foot or leg.
Leghold traps can only be used to trap rabbits, foxes and wild dogs. Leghold trapping of all other species is prohibited.
Traps must be set to minimise any harm caused to a trapped animal and to minimise the risk of catching non-target species.
Serrated steel-jawed leghold traps can no longer be used to trap any animal and the sale of them is illegal1.
What size traps can be used and how is jaw spread measured?
Trap sizes are based on the jaw spread of the trap. This is the maximum distance between the internal metal surfaces of both jaws, when measured perpendicular to a line drawn through the jaw pivot points when the trap is in the set position (see arrow on diagram opposite).
Jaw spread must be:
- no more than 10 centimetres, for small leghold traps which are to be used only for rabbits
- between 11 and 14 centimetres, for large leghold traps used for foxes
- between 13 and 15.5 centimetres for large leghold traps used for wild dogs
What features must a leghold trap have?
The jaws of leghold traps must be smooth and not serrated. Each jaw of the trap must be padded with commercially manufactured rubber pads designed to be used for the particular brand, size and design of the trap. (Laminated leghold traps can be used until 31 December 2011. After that date it will be illegal to use these traps. 'Laminated' means that the traps has had additional metal welded either above or below, or both above and below, the surface of the jaws to increase the surface area of the jaws where they impact upon the foot or leg of an animal).
The jaw of the trap must be offset so there is a distance of at least six millimetres between the metal parts of the jaws when the jaws are closed.
There must be a spring in the anchor chain of the trap to act as a shock absorber for the purposes of reducing the chance of injury to the captured limb. The anchor chain must also have a minimum of two swivels, with one located at each end of the anchor chain, so that the trap can twist if the animal struggles to escape. The anchor chain must be attached to the centre of the baseplate of the trap.
The pan tension of the trap must be adjustable so that it can be set at a tension required for the target species to trigger the trap. Correctly setting pan tension can help minimise non-target (e.g. wildlife) capture.
Where can leghold traps be used?
Large leghold traps, for foxes and wild dogs, can only be used in areas approved by the Minister for Agriculture. Refer to the prevention of cruelty to animals legislation or by calling the DEDJTR customer service centre on 136 186.
Small leghold traps, for rabbits, cannot be used on Crown land.
Leghold traps, both large and small, can only be used in urban areas with the consent of the Minister, unless the area is predominantly used for agriculture.
In addition, leghold traps, both large and small, can only be set and used if the land owner or occupier of the land or, in the case of Crown land, the manager of the land, has given their consent.
How often must leghold traps be checked?
Leghold traps should be checked as regularly as possible, to minimise injury, pain and distress of trapped animals. An animal must not be left alive in a leghold trap for more than 24 hours, therefore traps must be inspected at least once every 24 hours.
The Minister may approve a longer period for leghold trapping of wild dogs.
What are the conditions of releasing or disposing of animals trapped by leghold traps?
A trapped animal that is a declared pest animal must be humanely destroyed as soon as is reasonably possible (unless the person who owns it is authorised to own it under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 and the animal can be returned to its owner).
If the animal is uninjured and is a dog or cat, it must be taken to the local council.
Uninjured wildlife should be released promptly. Any other uninjured non-target animal must be taken to an animal shelter or other appropriate animal care facility.
Any animal, other than a declared pest animal, if injured, must be taken to a veterinary practitioner for treatment as soon as possible, or if severely injured, may be humanely destroyed. 'Humanely destroy' means causing the death of an animal by a means that results in immediate loss of consciousness and then death of the animal (without recovering consciousness).
What are the penalties for illegal use of leghold traps?
The maximum penalties for illegal sale and use of traps are 240 penalty units or imprisonment for two years, in the case of a natural person, and 1,200 penalty units, in the case of a body corporate. As of 1st July 2011, one penalty unit is $122.14.
Leghold traps are regulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2008. Further information is available from prevention of cruelty to animals legislation page.
For more information about leghold traps and Ministerial approvals call the calling the DEDJTR customer service centre on 136 186 or read more about Animal Welfare.
Animal Welfare - It's your Duty to Care
1 Traps not permitted for setting or use can be sold but only to museums or collectors. Sellers of traps are responsible for ensuring they are only selling such traps for collection purposes.