Standard Operating Procedure – DOG001
Wild dogs, which include feral domestic dogs, dingoes and their hybrids, prey on livestock causing significant impact on agricultural production. Methods of control include poisoning with sodium monofluoroacetate (1080), trapping, shooting, exclusion fencing, aversion and use of livestock guarding animals.
Trapping of wild dogs is often used where poison baiting is less effective, for example, in or around lambing paddocks where there is abundant food. Trapping is useful for targeting individual problem animals, or as a follow-up after 1080 baiting programs, but is regarded as an inefficient method for general population control.
Padded jaw traps are used to reduce the incidence and severity of foot injuries sustained by dogs. Traps are inspected daily and caught dogs are shot whilst still held by the trap. If the traps cannot be checked daily, lethal trap devices containing an humane toxin should be used to prevent prolonged exposure and suffering.
This standard operating procedure (SOP) is a guide only; it does not replace or override the legislation that applies in the relevant state or territory jurisdiction. The SOP should only be used subject to the applicable legal requirements (including WH&S) operating in the relevant jurisdiction.
- Trapping is time-consuming and labour intensive and is therefore best suited for control of small populations or problem individuals.
- Traps have the potential to cause significant suffering and distress so should only be used when there is no suitable alternative.
- Humane and successful trapping requires extensive training and experience. Trapping by inexperienced operators can result in ‘trap-shy’ dogs that are difficult to catch because they have previously escaped from a carelessly prepared and presented trap.
- Selection of appropriate traps and trap of capturing of non-target animals, and to minimise the pain and distress experienced by trapped animals.
- Every effort must be made to avoid animal deaths from factors such as exposure, shock, capture myopathy and predation.
- Once trapped, wild dogs are euthanased by shooting at the site of capture.
- Traps must be used in accordance with relevant state and territory legislation (see Table 1). In some states for example, Western Australia, a permit may be required to trap within certain municipalities.
- Shooting of wild dogs in traps should only be performed by skilled operators who have the necessary experience with firearms and who hold the appropriate licences and accreditation. Storage and transportation of firearms and ammunition must comply with relevant legislation requirements.
- Unless otherwise authorised by the relevant vertebrate pest authority, where leg-hold traps cannot be checked at least once daily a lethal toxin must be applied to the jaws of the trap or a lethal trap device must be used. Use of the lethal toxin or lethal trap device is to bring about a relatively quick death of trapped animals. This is preferable to the dog suffering a prolonged death from exposure, dehydration and/or stress. New lethal trap devices using humane toxins are currently being developed for use in all states and territories.
Table 1: Relevant State and Territory animal welfare and related legislation relevant to the use of traps (legislation correct 2012).
Animal welfare considerations
Impact on target animals
- Traps which catch dogs on the leg or foot cause pain and distress in two ways; pressure of the trap jaws on the captured limb and restraint of the animal. Injuries will inevitably occur to some animals, especially when they struggle to escape the trap. These range from swelling of the foot and lacerations to dislocations and fractures. Wild dogs may also inflict injuries to their feet and legs by chewing on the captured limb, and to their teeth, lips and gums by gnawing at the trap jaws. To reduce capture distress, trapped dogs must be destroyed humanely and as quickly as possible.
- It is preferable to set traps at sites where vegetation can provide shade and shelter. However, sites should be avoided where there is a risk of the trapped animal becoming entangled in understorey vegetation or fences, which could result in dislocation of the limb.
- Captured animals must be approached carefully and quietly to reduce panic, further stress and risk of injury.
- To minimise the animal welfare implications of leaving dependent pups to die a slow death from starvation it is preferable not to undertake trapping when females are whelping, that is, June to August in temperate areas.
- If lactating bitches are caught in a trap, efforts should be made to find dependent pups and kill them quickly and humanely with a shot to the brain.
- Traps should be inspected at least daily. In remote and extensive areas where this may not be possible, a lethal trap device containing a humane poison should be used to prevent prolonged exposure and suffering.
Impact on non-target animals
- Traps are not target specific, so a wide range of nontarget species may be caught. These can include birds (eg ravens, magpies, pied currawongs, kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits, hares, echidnas, goannas, wombats, possums, bandicoots, quolls and sheep). If there is a high risk of trapping non-target animals, traps should not be set.
- Different groups of non-target animals suffer different levels of injury and distress. For example:
- Wallabies often experience serious injuries (eg dislocations) due to the morphology of their limbs and because they become very agitated when restrained.
- Goannas (eg lace monitors) also suffer from dislocations and can die from hyperthermia.
- Birds, rabbits and hares can be preyed upon by foxes, cats and wild dogs while caught in traps.
- Traps must not be set near areas such as waterholes or gully crossings that are regularly frequented by nontarget species. Animal tracks and pads or holes in fences should also be avoided.
- If scavenging birds or goannas are known to frequent the area, food baits should not be used.
- If the trap is not checked for many days trapped nontarget animals will suffer for a prolonged period, dying from thirst, exposure and/or stress.
- Live non-target animals caught in traps must be examined for injuries and signs of illness or distress and dealt with as follows:
- Animals which are unharmed or have only received minimal injuries such as minor cuts or abrasions should be immediately released at the site of capture.
- Animals which have more severe injuries or which are suffering from thermal stress should receive appropriate attention. An animal suffering from thermal stress can initially be placed in a suitable quiet holding area which provides warmth or shade to allow recovery before release. Animals with treatable injuries that cannot be immediately released or those failing to recover from thermal stress should be presented to a veterinarian or a registered wildlife carer for treatment.
- Animals that have injuries which are untreatable or which would compromise their survival in the wild should be euthanased using a technique that is suitable for the species. For more information on euthanasia techniques refer to Methods of Euthanasia.
- If a domestic pet is caught, it should be taken to the nearest animal shelter, council pound or veterinarian where it can be scanned for a microchip and the owner contacted, or assessed for suitability of re-homing.
- If foxes or feral cats are caught in the trap they must be euthanased quickly and humanely by a shot to the brain using an appropriate firearm.
Health and safety considerations
- Firearms are hazardous. All people should stand well behind the shooter when a dog is being shot. The line of fire must be chosen to prevent accidents or injury from stray bullets or ricochets.
- Care must be taken when handling wild dog carcasses as they may carry diseases such as hydatidosis and sarcoptic mange that can affect humans and other animals. A dog with obvious mange should only be handled while wearing gloves. Routinely wash hands after handling all wild dog carcasses.
- Operators should be wary of the risks of injury when placing and setting traps. Protective clothing, boots and leather gloves may help prevent injuries from shovels, hammers and trap jaws.
- Approved padded-jaw traps suitable for catching wild dogs must be used for example, padded Lanes dingo trap or Victor Soft-Catch® trap no. 3. It is illegal to use serrated, steel-jawed traps in most states and they are not recommended for use in any circumstances on animal welfare grounds.
- Traps must have the following characteristics:
- The jaws have no teeth.
- The jaws are offset to increase the space between them when closed (ie a distance of 6-8 mm remains when the jaws are closed).
- Each jaw has a rubber-like pad to cushion the impact of the jaws on the limb and to prevent the limb sliding out. The padding fills the offset gap when the jaws are closed.
- Traps should also have:
- A spring placed in the anchor chain to act as a shock absorber, reducing the chance of dislocation of thek,captured limb. Swivels are located on both ends of the anchor chain allowing the trap to twist as the animal struggles to escape.
- Adjustable pan tension so that a certain minimum force is required to depress the pan and trigger the trap. This minimises the chance of smaller non-target animals setting off the trap.
- Olfactory stimuli such as dog faeces and/or urine, or a commercially prepared lure (eg synthetic fermented egg) are used to lure wild dogs into the trap set.
- The attractiveness of lures will vary with season and location.
- A handful of meat bait (eg beef, rabbit, lamb, chicken, and kangaroo) can also be placed near the trap.
- Attractiveness and palatability of the bait will vary with season and location.
Firearms and ammunition
- Firearms no smaller than a .17 calibre rimfire with hollow/soft point ammunition are recommended for euthanasia.
- 12 gauge shotguns with shot sizes of BB or AAA may also be used.
Selection of trap sites
- Traps should be set where the dog is most likely to find and investigate the unfamiliar lure odour eg beside regularly used boundary pads, near scent pads and around scratch points. Do not set traps near fences and other objects such as trees, bushes etc. in which the trapped dog may become entangled.
- The location of all trap sites must be accurately recorded and marked. This information should be readily available to others in case the trapper is unable to return to check traps.
Setting of traps
- It is preferable to set traps at the end of each day and check them each morning.
- Test that the trap is functioning properly before setting.
- Traps should only be anchored to stakes or fixed objects if there is a shock absorbing device such as a spring fitted to the anchor chain and a swivel attaching the chain to the trap. It is recommended to use a short length of chain (approx. 50 cm). Alternatively the trap can be tied to ‘drags’, objects such as rocks, solid pieces of steel or small logs that will move when the dog pulls against the trap.
- Set the trap and place into position in the hole in the ground. Ensure that surrounding shrubs or debris will not interfere with the spring mechanism.
- Camouflage the area around the trap with leaves, grass debris etc. but leave a slightly cleared area (10–15 cm) over the area of the plate.
- Place the lure on a slightly elevated clump of grass, stick or rock behind the trap. The distance from the plate of the trap to the decoy is critical and should be 45–50 cm, roughly equivalent to the distance between a dog’s front feet and his nose when leaning forward to smell.
Shooting of wild dogs
- Trapped dogs should be euthanased by shooting whilst still held by the trap.
- Unnecessary people should keep away from the area to allow the dog to become less agitated. The shooter should approach the animal in a calm and quiet manner.
- To maximise the impact of the shot and to minimise the risk of misdirection the range should be as short as possible, that is around 5-20 cm from the head if using a rifle, 1–2 m if using a shotgun.
- Never fire when the dog is moving its head, be patient and wait until the dog is motionless before shooting. Accuracy is important to achieve a humane death. One shot should ensure instantaneous loss of consciousness and rapid death without resumption of consciousness. Shots must be aimed to destroy the major centres at the back of the brain near the spinal cord. This can be achieved by one of the following methods (see diagrams below):
Frontal position (front view)
The firearm is aimed at a point midway between the level of the eyes and the base of the ears, but slightly off to
one side so as to miss the bony ridge that runs down the middle of the skull. The aim should be slightly across the
centreline of the skull and towards the spine.
Temporal position (side view)
The firearm is aimed horizontally at the side of the head at a point midway between the eye and the base of the ear.
- Death of shot animals should always be confirmed by observing the following:
- Absence of rhythmic, respiratory movements
- Absence of eye protection reflex (corneal reflex) or ‘blink’
- A fixed, glazed expression in the eyes
- Loss of colour in mucous membranes (become mottled and pale without refill after pressure is applied). If death cannot be verified, a second shot to the head should be taken immediately.
Recommended shot placements for wild dogs
Note: Head shots (temporal or frontal) should be used for shooting wild dogs caught in traps. In order: Side view, Side view (skeleton), Head shot (frontal)
- Allen L (1983). Wild dog ecology and control. Rural Lands Protection Board, Queensland.
- Department of Natural Resources and Mines (2002). NRM facts: Wild dog control. Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Queensland.
- NSW Department of Primary Industries (2004). Vertebrate Pest Control Manual. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange NSW.
- Boggess EK et al (1990). Traps, trapping and furbearer management: A review. The Wildlife Society Technical Review 90-1, 31 pp.
- Fleming PJS, Allen LR, Berghout MJ, Meek PD, Pavlov PM, Stevens P, Strong K, Thompson JA and Thomson PC (1998). The performance of wild-canid traps in Australia: efficiency, selectivity and trap-related injuries. Wildlife Research 25:327-338.
- Fleming P, Corbett L, Harden R and Thomson P (2001). Managing the Impacts of Dingoes and Other Wild Dogs. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.
- IAFWA (2003). Best Management Practices for Trapping Coyotes in the Eastern United States. International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
- Nocturnal Wildlife Research Pty Ltd (2007). Review: Welfare Outcomes of Leg-hold Trap Use in Victoria. A report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries.
- Thomson P (2003). Wild dog control. Farmnote no. 29/2002. Department of Agriculture, Forrestfield, Western Australia.
- Thomson P (2003). Wild dog control: Facts behind the strategies. Department of Agriculture, South Perth,
- UFAW (1988). Humane Killings of Animals (4th Ed). Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Potters Bar,
The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions manages these documents on behalf of the Environment and Invasives Committee (EIC). The authors of these documents have taken care to validate the accuracy of the information at the time of writing. This information has been prepared with care but it is provided “as is”, without warranty of any kind, to the extent permitted by law.
Connect with Government
It is important before undertaking a trapping program to ensure you liaise with the relevant government authority to check you have the right permits in place.