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Snares are commonly used in the UK to catch certain animals prior to their killing.[1] They can legally be used, subject to certain conditions, to catch animals including foxes, rabbits, rats and grey squirrels.

While snares can restrain animals without causing injury, they have the potential to cause injury and death. They can also catch non-target animals such as badgers and cats.[2] Their use is therefore controversial.

Snares are controlled in England and Wales under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This:

  • Prohibits the use of self-locking snares. These are not defined in the Act, but they are generally taken to be snares that continue to tighten when the animal struggles and thereby lead to asphyxiation;
  • Prohibits the setting of any type of snare in places where they are likely to catch certain non-target animals such as badgers;
  • Requires snares to be inspected on a daily basis.

In 2005 DEFRA issued a non-statutory Code of good practice on the use of snares in fox and rabbit control. This was followed by DEFRA-commissioned research on Determining the Extent of Use and Humaneness of Snares in England and Wales.

As a result of this research the Welsh Government published The Code of Best Practice on the Use of Snares in Fox Control in September 2015. This aimed “to deliver higher animal welfare standards, increased efficiency in terms of fox control, and ensure that fewer non-target species are being caught”.[3]

In Northern Ireland similar controls on snares apply under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. However, in October 2015 the Northern Ireland Government approved the Snares Order (Northern Ireland) 2015 which would have added additional restrictions on the use of snares in NI. In November 2015 the NI government decided that it would “put a hold” on the Order while further consultation was conducted.[4]

In recent years Scotland has tightened regulations on snares beyond the situation in England and Wales. Snares must have safety stops fitted and users are required to now attend a training course and register for a personal identification number. This ID number is required to be displayed on all snares which are set.[5] See Snaring in Scotland: A practitioners’ guide for further information.

[1]     http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/files/DEP2012-0577/Document.pdf

[2]     ibid

[3]     http://gov.wales/newsroom/environmentandcountryside/2015/animal-welfare-at-the-heart-of-new-snares-code/?lang=en

[4]     https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ni/?id=2016-01-26.5.15

[5]     http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0041/00412984.pdf


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