Scottish Animal Welfare Commission: report on the use of rodent glue traps in Scotland

Report on the use of rodent glue traps in Scotland.

Options for regulation

Legal and regulatory position in Scotland

There is currently no specific restriction on the purchase or use of glue traps on rats and mice, either by individuals or industry operators.

It is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 to cause unnecessary suffering or to fail to meet the welfare needs of an animal under human control, and this is interpreted as meaning a wild animal when it is trapped. It is also an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to set glue boards in a place where wild birds might be caught. The Pest Management Alliance (PMA) publishes a voluntary code of practice (latest public version is January 2017) for the use of glue traps (PMA, 2017a) for its members.

With regard to mandatory inspection times, it is widely accepted that animals should not be left in a live capture trap for more than 24 hrs, and ideally much less. Twenty-four hours is the period specified under section 11B of the WCA for the inspection of snares (some industry codes recommend twice-daily inspections). The same period is also referenced in other regulatory instruments such as the Scottish General Licences (NatureScot, 2020).

The pest control industry is not currently regulated in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK.

The Scottish Government has powers to regulate the sale and use of items such as glue traps, while issues relating to imports are reserved to the UK government.

Options considered

Having reviewed the submissions and other evidence, the Commission has considered a number of options that might be recommended to the Scottish Ministers and assessed the likely support for these. It was noted that some stakeholders expressed a preference for one option but supported others in the absence of their first choice, or as a stopgap. The options considered were:

1 Do nothing

This option was not supported by any of the stakeholder submissions or other sources consulted and is not consistent with the previously stated intention of the Scottish Government. All submissions either support either a prohibition on use by untrained individuals or a wider measure.

2 Outright ban on all sale and all use of glue traps

This option appears to offer the most immediate positive impact on animal welfare, even while acknowledging that there are welfare problems with other techniques in current use, in particular rodenticides. It was the preferred option of the Petitioners Andrea Goddard and Lisa Harvey and their supporters (HSI UK, OneKind, Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux, WAWC):

"Our current position is that we would like to see a total ban on glue trap sale and use in Scotland. We have not been reassured by the Pest Management Alliance (PMA)'s assertion that they can affectively self-regulate their members. The PMA admit their training courses and Codes of Best Practice are not mandatory and so adhering to them cannot be effectively enforced. We also have concerns over the practical implications of restricting glue traps sales to 'professional users' only. Suppliers are unable to differentiate between 'professional' users and the general public and so an industry-wide registration or licensing system will need to be set up. These issues are insurmountable without implementing complicated legislation, and so we feel a complete ban is the simplest, quickest (in terms of writing and enacting legislation) and the only option available to ensure animals no longer are at risk of unnecessary suffering in these barbaric devices."

Other respondents including BC SPCA and UFAW generally supported an outright ban on glue traps. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) wrote to the Public Petitions Committee in November 2017:

"The Scottish SPCA would support a ban on the sale and use of glue boards entirely but if that is not possible that their use is restricted to registered pest controllers who are fully aware of the welfare implications involved and the requirement to check such traps appropriately and humanely dispatch any pest species caught."

An outright ban is opposed by the BPCA, which submitted to the Public Petitions Committee on 20 August 2020:

"We must stress however, that an outright ban in our view can only be to the severe detriment of public health."

3 Prohibition on purchase and use by individuals but retain trained operator/industry use under industry voluntary code

All stakeholder submissions supported a ban on the purchase and use of glue traps by members of the public.

A voluntary code appeared to be the option preferred by the BPCA, which stated:

"The PMA has produced a Code of Best Practice for the Humane Use of Glue Boards in consultation with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA); it is also supported by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the National Pest Technicians Association.

The main recommendations of the Code are:

  • Glue boards should be used as a last resort when all other tools have proved to be ineffective or inappropriate
  • Glue boards should only be used by trained and competent professionals
  • Glue boards should be checked at least every 12 hours, and their continued use should be assessed every 24 hours
  • Anyone who has placed a glue board must be able to competently and humanely dispatch any caught rodent (making glue boards unsuitable for amateur use)
  • The technician responsible for the glue board must have a contingency plan where a second technician can inspect the glue traps in an emergency, and an emollient is made available if a non-target species was to be caught
  • Detailed reports regarding the use of glue boards should be maintained at all times
  • Glue boards should be removed at the end of treatment and disposed of appropriately."

The BPCA commented further:

"… if it were up to us, only companies who have proven they meet the standards of BPCA membership would have access to the more dangerous tools in our kit - including glue boards.

We support any proposed partial ban to glue boards that takes them away from public use or anyone else who wouldn't ordinarily meet BPCA's membership criteria.

We support any mandatory labelling or documentation that highlights the risks of improper use (the PMA Code of Best Practice could be used for this).

We do not support an outright ban of rodent glue boards for professionals (our definition for which makes up our membership criteria).

A ban on glue boards would remove a tool that helps protect some of the most vulnerable people and high-risk environments. This would have a detrimental effect on public health in Scotland."

Other stakeholders including HSI UK, OneKind, WAWC, Andrea Goddard and Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux submitted that current codes, including the PMA Code, were inadequate, citing for example the requirement to check traps after 12 hours, "when simple technology such as motion sensors should allow for a more immediate response to prevent suffering of trapped animals."

Dr Mullineaux, a veterinary surgeon with a specialist interest in British wildlife, drew attention to the Five Domains model (Mellor, 2017) and the potentially severe negative welfare impacts on the trapped animals, with Domains 3 (Health), 4 (Behaviour) and 5 (Mental state) all being compromised:

"The speed at which welfare is affected in a struggling rodent is rapid (minutes) and yet suffering and death can be prolonged (3-24hrs) (Mason and Littin, 2003). The recommended frequency of checking traps (currently 12hrs; PMA, 2017a) has the potential to result in considerable suffering."

These respondents believed that voluntary codes to manage the professional use of glue traps lack a robust mechanism to assess competency of users, coupled with lack of effective monitoring and enforcement to ensure that such codes are adhered to in practice.

SASA also commented on the desirability of developing mechanisms for more frequent checks and removal of captured animals, including a licensing requirement for named, trained site representatives. In addition:

"… the use of a remote trap alert system might also offer a solution, alerting the trap operator as soon as something is caught so that they or an on-site member of staff with appropriate training can immediately set out to deal with the capture. Again, under a licensing system the parameters of such a system could be set out in the licence application so that the licence issuer is satisfied that it will minimise the length of time a rodent spends in the trap and has failsafe built in. A similar alternative might be to have a live video feed of a trap streamed to the trap operator who can check it at regular intervals (or perhaps use software that detects a change in image and can alert them as some CCTV devices can). Bespoke monitoring systems for glue traps don't currently exist but if there was demand then some existing systems might be expanded to include them. As far as I'm aware, all of the big pest control contractors have some kind of remote alert system available and there are many others on the market, if there was demand for a glue trap monitor I'm sure one could be developed and integrated into an existing system."

Other alleged deficiencies listed by HSI UK included there being:

"… no requirement to provide proof of the operator's competency prior to purchase and use; no requirement to keep full records of the frequency of inspections, delays, details of use, trapped species, etc.; and no requirement to submit full records to a designated authority in order to monitor and ensure correct use and compliance with the code."

These criticisms refer both to the Code of Practice published in 2017 and the revised version which, as far as we can see, has not been published but was submitted in draft to the Public Petitions Committee on 14 November 2019 (PMA, 2019).

4 Prohibition on purchase and use by individuals but retain trained operator/industry use under (i) statutory code/guidance or (ii) licence (general/individual/case by case)

The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 gives powers to the Scottish Ministers to issue statutory codes for the welfare of animals (s.37), or statutory guidance (s.38). The Act normally only applies to animals that are domesticated in the British Isles, but it can also cover wild animals when they are under the control of humans, for example when they are deliberately trapped. The Cabinet Secretary discussed the creation of a mandatory Scottish code with the Public Petitions Committee in April 2018, describing it as the preferred option at that time.

REHIS supported control of use, which the Commission has taken to mean statutory control:

"REHIS would support the removal of glue boards for sale to the amateur sector restricting their use to the professional pest control sector only. In addition, their use within the professional sector needs to be controlled, so that only trained and competent personnel can use these products in accordance with a strict set of guidelines."

REHIS suggested that the PMA Code could provide the basis of either a Statutory Code of Practice or a general licensing scheme. Others criticised this code as inadequate, as described above.

The BPCA return did not differentiate between a voluntary and a statutory code, although it did support mandatory labelling of traps to reflect its own code.

SASA supported restricting glue trap use to trained professionals only, with restrictions on sales to the public and a government and industry Code of Practice agreed, "including frequent minimum check intervals and standards for record keeping, also ensuring that anyone responsible for checking a trap is appropriately trained, particularly in humane dispatch."

SASA and REHIS also raised the possibility of a general licence, analogous to those issued for the taking and killing of wild birds (NatureScot, 2020), as an option for light touch regulation.

On case-by-case licensing, the submission from BPCA stated that a typical scenario for using glue traps by its members would be when there was a risk to public health and an urgent need to remove rodents. In their view, applying for a licence for every single use would introduce delay and would be unduly onerous on both applicant and licensing authority. Others, such as UFAW, supported case-by-case licensing if an outright ban is not forthcoming, limited to pest control experts (and only where control of a target species is of very high priority), with stringent reporting and monitoring.

5 As Option 4, but with a review prior to outright ban

This option offers limited short-term positive outcomes by eliminating use by untrained individuals and ensuring that industry users are subject to a licence with conditions attached to improve welfare protection. Should continued use of glue traps be considered necessary in strictly limited circumstances, efforts should be made to find humane alternatives with the aim of an eventual total ban. A review should take place within a maximum of three years in the expectation that a full ban will be realistic by then, while the long lead-in time would provide motivation for the industry to implement alternative practices.

A number of stakeholders who supported an outright ban appeared to accept that this would be a possible approach.



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