Trap Standards Development – Historical Perspectives by Neal Jotham, Chairman ISO TC191 (1987-present)

February 6th, 2012 | Research

The early initiative toward drafting Canadian National Humane Trap Standards was made possible because of the pioneering project established jointly by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) and the Canadian Association for Humane Trapping (CAHT) in 1968. These organizations began the first multi-disciplined, scientific approach to research and development for improving the humaneness of trapping systems.

Engineering aspects related to trap geometry and field operation was undertaken at McMaster University in Hamilton and preliminary biological and physiological aspects of trap effectiveness began at the University of Guelph.

Funding for that program came from CFHS, CAHT, other humane societies across Canada,the Hudson’s Bay Company and three provinces. The results of this joint program were published in a 1975-CFHS Report.


Through, the combined efforts of a spirited publicity campaign by CAHT and the CFHS/CAHT trap research program, as well as concerns expressed by trappers associations, fur industry representatives, and with support from federal and provincial/territorial Wildlife Directors, the Federal-Provincial Committee for Humane Trapping (FPCHT) was established.

The FPCHT mandate related to animal welfare was “to recommend to provinces, traps and trapping techniques for all furbearers which will, in so far as the state of the science or the art will allow, provide the greatest ‘humaneness’ in holding or killing of furbearers.”

While the CFHS/CAHT program did not produce any new trapping devices, it made a significant contribution to the development of scientific protocols for testing traps, especially related to engineering aspects. These data were provided to the FPCHT, which built upon and improved such technologies, and enhanced the biological and physiological aspects of trap testing.

The majority of funding for the eight-year FPCHT program was provided by the federal/provincial/territorial governments and other resources of varying amounts came from the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF), the Ontario Trappers Association, Hudson’s Bay Company, CFHS, and CAHT.

Neal Jotham at a CAHT Box-Trap Evaluation Workshop (CAHT File Photo)

The FPCHT presented its final Report in 1981 to the Federal/Provincial Wildlife Directors and among its recommendations were to promote the use of species-specific traps that research had determined had “humane potential,” to support continuing trapper education, to support continuing development of National Trap Standards and especially to continue trap research and development through enhanced facilities and resources.

National Trap Standards

As the work of the FPCHT was well underway in 1977, at the request of the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) began preparation of a standard for humane animal traps. A Committee of interested parties (including CAHT and CFHS) was formed and its deliberations resulted in publication, in 1979, of a “Provisional Standard for Traps, Humane, Mechanically Powered, Trigger Activated” which in effect was a status report at that time. While not a full standard, the provisional standard indicated that while work was ongoing through the FPCHT, members of the standards committee did not agree that a full standard could be published.

Ultimately, a CGSB National Standard for killing traps was established in 1984. Subsequently, this standard too was superseded in 1996 by a Standard for killing traps used on land only.


Following the FPCHT recommendations, the Canadian Wildlife Ministers agreed to the formation of the Fur Institute of Canada (FIC) in 1983 to continue the trap research and development program. FIC established the most advanced program of its kind in the world and it continues today. Results from that effort provided input into the completion of the 1996 national trap standard mentioned above. (See FIC website,, for more details about that organization.)


Virtually every country in the world permits the trapping of animals for various reasons, and the systems used are identical. Because of that fact, and in view of the Canadian national trap standards initiatives as well as the newly established FIC trap research program, the Canadian government recommended to the 1983 Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) be asked to develop an international standard for trapping systems. Canada agreed to provide chairmanship and secretarial responsibilities if ISO agreed to this project. Subsequently, I was nominated and then appointed by ISO as Chairman of an ISO TC191 and CGSB provided the secretariat. Development of international product standards is a complex process and even more so when animal welfare is a consideration, and at least five national Standards Councils, as members of ISO, must agree to the development of any international standard.

2003 CAHT Box Trap Evaluation Workshop (CAHT File Photo)

Seven ISO members agreed to move forward on the humane trap standards development process through the Technical Committee 191 which first met to begin its work in 1987. The number of countries involved grew to nine and eventually to fifteen. Two working groups were established to deal with killing and restraining traps. The objective of each group was to recommend scientifically measurable species-specific animal welfare (humane) thresholds that reflected the state-of-the-art trapping systems internationally.

As discussions continued and information about traps and trapping methods used in their respective countries was provided by the various participants, it became apparent that consensus on establishing acceptable thresholds could not be reached – not because of technical aspects, but because some participants believed the standard should reflect moral considerations related to the construct “humane” if that term was to be used in the title of the documents. In other words, some individuals wanted the standard to outline a utopian view for trap performance rather than a practical state-of-the-art standard in keeping with the ISO mandate. One of the other major problems was that the trap testing data from many of the countries was sparse or non-existent. And often available data was produced from testing protocols that made species-specific trap effectiveness comparisons impossible

In 1995, as Chairman of ISO TC191, I recognized that it would be futile to continue efforts to reach consensus on acceptable international trap performance thresholds. However, rather than closing down the project and wasting the accomplishments achieved, I suggested a change in the direction of the work. Consequently, it was agreed by TC191 members that development of international standards for trap testing methodologies would be a major contribution toward efforts to determine the effectiveness of trapping systems related to the welfare of animals captured by such methods. Traps used in any country could then be tested using internationally agreed ISO testing methodologies and the decisions regarding acceptable thresholds could be left to individual jurisdictions. For this new objective, the term “humane” was removed as redundant and consensus was achieved by the TC191 members in 1997.

Following completion of ISO administration details, two international standards on trap testing methods were published in 1999 – one for testing killing traps used on land and underwater and one for testing restraining traps. After the mandatory ISO five-year review of the standards in 2004, there was consensus to maintain them without change. The next review will be in 2009. Throughout the proceedings related to national and international trap standards, as well as the FPCHT and FIC trap research programs, the CAHT made significant contributions on behalf of animal welfare issues related to trapping.


In 1991, the European Union passed a Regulation (3254/91) that prohibits the importation into EU member states of fur products derived from thirteen furbearer species, (twelve of which are North American), unless the EU Commission determines that: – “there are adequate administrative or legislative provisions in force to prohibit the use of the leghold trap; OR – the trapping methods used for the species listed in Annex I meet internationally agreed humane trapping standards.”

Copy of Agreement on international humane trapping standards between the European Community, Canada and the Russian Federation.

For its part, where member states had not already done so, the EU prohibited the use of jaw-type leghold traps throughout its twelve member states. That number has now risen to twenty-five, but it is unclear as to whether the new member states have taken steps to prohibit the use of such trapping devices. Nevertheless, while EU Regulation 3254/91 requires the prohibition of one type of trap, it does not require that the many other types of traps used in EU member states meet any animal welfare standard.

The preamble to EU 3254/91 indicates that the EU will take into account the trap standards work being carried out at that time by ISO and this is reflected in the OR clause shown above. However, since the ISO process could not reach consensus on trap effectiveness thresholds as described above, government representatives from Canada, the EU, Russia and the USA agreed to negotiate an international humane trap standard that does include species-specific animal welfare thresholds related to trapping systems.

Also, to avoid a double standard for trapped species, the EU agreed to add five European furbearers to the list for which traps would have to comply with the standards. Ultimately, the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) was signed in 1997 by Canada, the EU and Russia. The USA signed a separate, but similar Agreement with the EU.

The AIHTS includes guidelines for the testing of traps and states in Part III, page 17, “in the event that testing procedures are established under the framework of ISO, and such procedures are relevant for the assessment of the conformity of trapping methods with some or all of the requirements of the Standards (AIHTS), the ISO procedures shall be used as appropriate.” Currently, Canada, the USA, England, Sweden, Russia and New Zealand are using ISO trap testing methodologies to evaluate the effectiveness, in relation to animal welfare, of traps used in those countries.

When administration details are completed in the EU toward implementation of the AIHTS, twenty-three other EU member states will be required to use the ISO standards for testing traps to determine whether they can comply with the welfare thresholds set out in the AIHTS. Clearly, this provides a much better opportunity to measure and improve the welfare of animals related to trapping than is the case where no measurable humane standards exist in EU Regulation 3254/91.

AIHTS Implementation

The Canadian Wildlife Ministers appointed the FIC to coordinate the implementation of the AIHTS on behalf of the federal, provincial/territorial governments.

The FIC has published a list of species-specific traps that have been tested using ISO testing methods, and certified under the Canadian National Trap Certification Program developed by provincial and territorial authorities as meeting the welfare threshold requirements set out in the AIHTS. The first phase of implementing the use of only certified traps for certain species will begin this fall with two more phases to follow when the trap testing program provides the necessary data. (See FIC website).


Since 1965 when I first became involved with the issue of animal welfare related to trapping, great strides have been made toward improving the humaneness of trapping. Over the years, through cooperative stakeholder efforts, governments made incremental regulatory changes affecting the use of a variety of trapping systems. Trapper education programs across Canada played a major role in improving animal welfare by demonstrating the best ways traps are used and placed. The Table illustrating such progress from 1960 through 1990 indicates, by jurisdiction, the various prohibitions and conditions for trap use that had a direct and positive impact toward the exponential improvement of animal welfare.

Furthermore, in 1997, as a requirement of the AIHTS for Canada, the provinces and territories confirmed the prohibition of the use on land of all jaw-type leghold restraining traps for seven of the twelve Canadian furbearer species and subsequently, in 2001, the use on land of conventional steel-jawed leghold restraining traps for the other five species. All other restraining traps used on land will have to be certified as meeting the AIHTS welfare thresholds. All killing type traps will be required to meet the AIHTS thresholds and, as mentioned, the FIC list of certified traps illustrates the progress in that regard.

The FIC trap research program has made a major contribution toward improving animal welfare related to trap testing. Species-specific Computer Simulation Models (CSM) have been developed that made it unnecessary to capture, transport, house and use in live animal/trap tests some 1,200 furbearers.

Use of CSM for rating killing traps against the AIHTS thresholds has resulted in savings of some $4 million for live animal/trap tests in outdoor enclosures. CSM and other aspects resulting from FIC and other countries’ trap research and testing will in due course permit amendments to the ISO trap testing methodologies. This will again enhance the prospects toward further improvements in animal welfare related to trapping.

Trapping of animals for various reasons will remain an activity in Canada and other countries, as will the dynamic, cooperative programs dedicated to improving animal welfare in this regard.

Mr. Jotham’s Background: • Consultant to Trap Research and Development Committee, Fur Institute of Canada (1998 – ) • Former Coordinator, Humane Trapping Program, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada (1984 – 1998) • Former Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (1977 – 1984) • Former Chairman, Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee, FPCHT, (1977 – 1981) • Former Part Time Executive Director, FPCHT, (1979 -1981) • Former Volunteer Vice-President, Administration, CAHT (1965 – 1977)

Copyright by N. Jotham

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