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What is the most humane way to kill pest rats and mice?
There are a range of different poisons and traps used in Australia for controlling rats and mice. The RSPCA is concerned that many of these methods are inhumane and involve a slow and painful death. The following information provides advice on how to minimise rats and mice establishing, and where control is necessary, the most humane methods available.
The use of live traps is a popular choice for many people who prefer to avoid killing rats and mice but want to remove them from their home or property. However, the humaneness of live traps depends on how frequently the traps are checked, the design of the trap, and whether food, water or nesting material are provided to avoid starvation, dehydration or cold stress. Live traps must be designed to avoid injury during closure and when the animal is trapped inside. Before use the trap mechanism must be checked to ensure that it will not catch the tail or limbs of the animal when it closes.
Live traps must be inspected every morning and any trapped animals humanely killed or released into a suitable location. Animals must not be left to die slowly in the trap. Unfortunately, the available evidence suggests that the survival rate of relocated animals is often very low - releasing animals into a new location is therefore unlikely to be a more humane alternative to killing them quickly and painlessly.
A more humane and faster method than live trapping and killing is the use of a well-designed snap trap. These come in different sizes that can be used for either rats or mice. It is recommended to only use a reliable and well-designed trap which ensures that the animal's head is fully inside the trap area when the trap is triggered and can be consistently set and reset. Snap traps that are designed well and used properly, are consistently found to ensure a quick death to the mouse or rat and once cleaned, they can be reused.
The following tips should help with setting traps effectively:
All traps must be checked every morning and trapped animals checked to ensure they are dead. If any animals are trapped and injured, they must be humanely killed (with a rapid, heavy blow to the head). Traps that have failed should be discarded and replaced by another design or brand of snap trap. It is important to use an effective and reliable snap trap that kills the animal instantly.
The RSPCA is opposed to the use of glue boards as they cause severe suffering.
Other control methods
Where there is a large scale rodent problem, the RSPCA recommends that only methods resulting in a quick and humane death are used. Many people use a toxic bait to kill unwanted pests. People often choose toxic baits as the poisoned rodent will rarely be seen as it wanders off to die. These baits contain chemicals, called anticoagulants, which cause the rodent to die by slowly and painfully from internal bleeding. These poisons are not considered to be humane due to their toxic effects including difficulty breathing, weakness, vomiting, bleeding gums, seizures, abdominal swelling and pain. In addition, the body of the poisoned rodent may present a risk if it is eaten by other animals, including native wildlife.
Rodent proofing properties
Houses that are located close to bush or parkland or other open spaces are prone to mouse invasion. In older buildings, where there may be cracks or loose bricks, problems with rats and mice are also common. The following precautions, which are easy and inexpensive, will reduce the likelihood of rats and mice entering houses or sheds.
1. Guiding Principles for the Humane Control of Rats and Mice (2009) Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) website: www.ufaw.org.uk/rodent-welfare/rodent-welfare
2. Mason, G.M. & Littin, K.E. (2003) The humaneness of rodent pest control. Animal Welfare 12: 1-37
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