Did you know? Steel jaw traps are illegal to set in NSW

Steel jaw traps

The RSPCA NSW Inspectorate wants to remind members of the public that it is illegal to set a steel jaw trap or possess a steel jaw trap with the intention of setting it under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1979)

Fines of up to $5,500 for an individual and/or six months’ imprisonment can be imposed, and fines up to $27,500 for a corporation. 

A steel jaw trap is defined as “a trap that has jaws that are made of steel, iron or other metal and that are designed to spring together and trap an animal when a leg or other part of the animal’s body comes into contact with, or is placed between, the jaws.”  

It does not include a soft jaw trap, which is defined as “a trap with steel jaws that are offset and padded”. However, while not illegal, RSPCA NSW does not condone the setting of soft jaw traps.  

What is the issue with steel jaw traps? 

Steel jaw traps
A steel jaw trap seized by Inspector Kelly and Inspector Hills.

Steel jaw traps cause severe injury and significant pain to trapped animals.  

RSPCA NSW Inspector Hills, who works in the northern region of New South Wales, has come across multiple instances where these traps have been illegally used. He says he has commonly seen them being set to capture cats or foxes.  

“Members of the public often set them either in their own property or adjacent to their property, such as backing onto bushland or reserves,” explains Inspector Hills.  

“I have dealt with a number of cases where cats, foxes, and a few dogs have become caught, resulting in the trapped animal requiring extensive veterinary treatment or euthanasia.”  

Inspector Hills explains that the way these traps are made makes it especially harmful to animals.  

“The traps are designed to spring shut onto a leg and hold the animal,” he says. “Their steel jaw tooth-like design causes injury to the leg the more the animal struggles, which can result in a fracture, bleeding and severe damage to tissue, tendons or ligaments.”  

In his experience, Hills says that members of the public claim they do not know these types of traps are illegal. They’re also commonly not spotted until it’s too late.  

“Sadly most of the time [steel jaw traps] are not known about and it is only when a member of public sees them with a caught animal, or an animal such as a dog has come home with a trap attached to its leg, that we become aware of them.” 

Unlike electric collars, which are illegal to possess, it is not illegal to possess a steel jaw trap. However, it is illegal to possess one with the intention of setting it.  

What is the difference between steel jaw traps and soft jaw traps? 

steel jaw traps 2
163 steel jaw traps seized by Inspector Kelly and Inspector Hills, which were destroyed and recycled.

Soft jaw traps are legal to use under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1979) but their use is not condoned by the RSPCAAll jawed traps are capable of inflicting pain and suffering when animals are caught, especially if they’re not checked very promptly. 

Inspector Hills points out that soft jaw traps can also cause swelling and the potential of fractured limbs if an animal tries to escape. Animals trapped are also likely to experience fear and anxiety and may be predated upon by other animals, without any ability to flee, seek shelter, food or water.  

Where traps are used for pest control, RSPCA NSW opposes any methodology that does not result in the immediate and humane death of the animal. 

Please read our companion piece, Did you know? It’s illegal to possess an electric collar in NSW.