I read today on the Raptor Politics blog an account of a police investigation by Lancashire Constabulary into a cat that had been illegally trapped (see http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2016/10/14/21459/#more-21459 ) The photograph on the blog shows a cat hanging by the back leg from a Fenn trap which had been set on a log over a ditch or other waterway on a shooting estate in the Forest of Bowland.
In the blog there are many serious accusations against the police officers involved. I’m not going to comment on these accusations as I have no way of confirming their veracity. In any case, so far as I can see from the photograph, I wanted to give my view of the use of trap in which the cat was caught.
The trap is a Fenn type trap, probably a Mk IV rather than the larger Mk VI. It had been set on the log and covered by wire mesh, but had no restriction at either end to prevent non-target mammals entering and being caught. My blog of 2nd September 2016 explains the legal use of these traps.
For two reasons this trap has been set illegally.
(1) The Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2012 governs the setting of traps for mammals. The trap needs to be approved, which is the case with the Fenn Mk IV, but it is only approved if the conditions of approval are adhered to. They are, ‘The traps may be used only for the purpose of killing grey squirrels, stoats, weasels, rats, mice and other small ground vermin (except for those species listed in Schedules 5 and 6 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981). The traps must be set in natural or artificial tunnels which are, in either case, suitable for the purpose’. Whoever set the trap has therefore set an unapproved trap. In England, under section 8 of the Pests Act 1954, it is an offence to use or knowingly to permit the use of any spring trap, other than a trap that has been approved by Order, for animals or in circumstances for which it is not approved.
(2) Anything that flows from this illegal setting would also be an offence. Here we have a cat caught by a leg and left to suffer, according to a vet who examined it, for at least three days. This is a further offence, this time under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in which it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
Interestingly there is nothing set out in legislation about the checking of traps such as the Fenn trap, which is meant to kill instantly if set as approved and for the correct species. If it is set outwith the approval conditions any animal injured as a consequence could come under the jurisdiction of animal welfare legislation.
I tend to agree with the independent expert who examined the trap and concluded that it would be highly likely that other traps and snares on the estate would be set in a similar illegal manner. While part of the police investigation was clearly focussed on damage to traps and snares on this estate, and seems to have been ongoing since 2015, I have no idea what, if any, investigation they carried out in relation to illegally-set traps. It does strike me, though, that if tunnel traps were being set illegally, this fact should have been picked up and investigated much earlier, and certainly during any scene of crime examination of damaged traps.