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  4. RSPCA Policy E2 Management of wild animals

RSPCA Policy E2 Management of wild animals

2.1The RSPCA acknowledges that in some circumstances it can be necessary to manage populations of wild animals, whether native or introduced; for instance, to:
  • protect the welfare of individual animals.
  • help conserve a vulnerable, threatened, or endangered native species.
  • reduce adverse impacts on human activities.
  • reduce environmental impact.
  • reduce risks to public health and safety, including biosecurity risks.
  • reduce negative welfare impacts on native species.
2.2Programs and strategies for the management of wild animals (such as threat abatement plans and native animal management plans) must be justified, supported by scientific evidence, and have clearly stated aims. Such programs and strategies should be subject to public consultation (including traditional custodians) and ethical consideration prior to implementation. Once implemented, outcomes including animal welfare impacts and program effectiveness should be regularly monitored, evaluated, publicly reported, and used to inform future activities.
2.3Management programs must be aimed at reducing adverse impacts rather than simply reducing the number of animals, with evaluation of effectiveness reflecting this. The RSPCA opposes the use of incentive methods (such as bounty systems) where these focus on killing animals rather than reducing impacts.
2.4Management activities (such as on-ground intervention or control) should only be undertaken if it is likely that the aims of the program can be achieved. The methods used must be humane, undertaken by competent operators, target-specific, and effective (see E2.9).
2.5Once the aims of a management program have been achieved, steps must be taken to ensure that the outcomes are maintained in the long-term.
2.6The RSPCA advocates that until welfare standards for wild animal management activities are mandated, adherence to recognised welfare codes of practice and standard operating procedures should be a condition of any government funding of wild animal management activities.
2.7Protecting the welfare of wild animals
2.7.1Management programs aimed at protecting the welfare of individual animals (e.g. to avoid suffering during drought) or populations (e.g. to reduce impacts of land clearing) may be necessary where populations are subjected to severe environmental stress (including through climate change), habitat fragmentation, disease, or human activity.
2.7.2In some circumstances, it is considered necessary to reduce the size of a given population of native animals for the long-term benefit of that population. The killing of animals for this reason should only be permitted where it can be carried out humanely and there is no non-lethal, humane and effective alternative available (see E2.9).

See also: Policy E5 - Rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals
2.8Conserving native species
2.8.1Management programs aimed at conserving native animals, including threatened or endangered species, should centre on habitat protection, but may include strategies such as captive breeding, translocation, and release of animals. Care must be taken to avoid any adverse effects of these activities on the welfare of both target and non-target animals.
2.8.2Captive breeding should only be considered an appropriate conservation strategy where:

  • Other strategies have been investigated and are not considered feasible.
  • Re-introduction is the intention.
  • It is part of a comprehensive conservation program which also helps to address threats to continued survival of the species in the wild.
  • High standards of care and welfare for the animals is maintained.
  • Supervision is carried out by a relevant government agency.
  • Effective monitoring and evaluation of objectives and adverse effects on target and non-target species is undertaken.
2.9Management and control methods
2.9.1The RSPCA advocates that the most humane methods undertaken by competent operators, be used for the control and management of wild animals. A humane method is one which does not cause any pain, suffering, or distress to target and non-target animals.

See also: Policy Section G - Humane killing
2.9.2Independent assessment of the relative humaneness of control methods for managing wild animals and the publication of these assessments assists in identifying the most humane available methods for a given situation1. The relatively most humane method is that which causes the least suffering when compared to other methods.
2.9.3Where control measures are implemented, these should be carried out as part of an integrated animal management program conducted by competent operators and align with best practice. Lethal methods must only be used where there is no feasible non-lethal, humane alternative which is likely to be effective in achieving the program’s aims.
2.9.4Where professional or recreational shooters are used in animal management programs, their activities must be effectively supervised by a government agency to ensure competence and compliance with standard operating procedures providing for high standards of animal welfare.
2.9.5Where traps are used, this must be done in a manner which minimises suffering to target and non-target animals by setting traps in accordance with best practice guidelines including under appropriate climatic conditions, regular checks are made (at least daily or preferably using effective alert technology), risk of tampering and ant activity is minimised, target animals are killed humanely and appropriate action taken where non-target animals are trapped.
2.9.6Humaneness assessments, which involve evaluating the level of suffering prior to and at the point of death, should be a requirement for registration of chemicals used for wild animal control, such as poison baits. This information should be readily available to chemical users.
2.9.7The RSPCA advocates for ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness and negative animal welfare impacts of non-lethal methods of controlling wild animals (e.g. deterrents and exclusion fencing designed to impede animal movement to prevent access to feed and water or entering motorways). Where methods have negative welfare impacts, steps must be taken to minimise these impacts and/or consideration be given to discontinuing use of the method.
2.9.8The RSPCA believes there is a continuing need to improve current control methods which negatively impact on animal welfare or replace them with more humane and effective alternatives. The RSPCA supports the prioritisation of research and development of humane and effective alternatives (e.g. deterrents and reproductive control), to replace lethal methods.
2.9.9The RSPCA opposes the use of glue boards/traps due to unacceptable pain and suffering.
2.9.10The RSPCA opposes the use of poisons for controlling wild animals where relatively more humane alternatives are available. Where these are not available, the RSPCA believes that more research must be undertaken as a matter of urgency to replace the use of such poisons. Where such poisons are used, steps must be taken to minimise negative welfare impacts on target species and prevent access to the poison by non-target species.
2.10Human activities and wild animals
2.10.1The RSPCA advocates for the implementation of strategies to avoid adverse welfare impacts on local populations of wild animals and/or their habitat caused by human activities.

Relevant government agencies, land developers, and land holders have a responsibility to assess welfare risks (to wild animals potentially directly and indirectly affected), and to develop plans, and take appropriate action to minimise negative welfare impacts, prior to commencement of activities (i.e. land clearing, forestry, infrastructure development, and construction).
2.10.2The RSPCA advocates for planning authorities, as part of the approval process for a significant development, requiring developers to submit a management plan to identify and mitigate any negative impacts on the welfare of wild animals caused by the proposed development.
2.10.3Independent environmental impact assessments must be undertaken as a condition of permit approval for any significant development which involves the risk of a material negative impact on the welfare or habitat of wild animals, such as threatening the continued survival of a species, or undermining the viability of an existing ecosystem. Such assessments should draw upon expertise in animal welfare, wildlife care, ecology and other relevant matters to assist in identifying any such risks and ways in which they could be eliminated or mitigated.
2.10.4Where assessments of development projects identify the risks of a negative impact on the welfare or habitat of wild animals, conditions should be placed on the development approval to mitigate these threats. Where mitigation is not possible or acceptable, consideration should be given as to whether the development should proceed.
2.10.5Translocation of native animals to an alternative site may pose significant welfare risks, including:
  • injury, pain, suffering or distress caused by capture, restraint, transportation and release at new site
  • inability to adapt to a new site (e.g. through inability to establish home territory, lack of familiarity with local food, water sources and local threats (e.g. predators)
  • conflict or competition with animals already living at the new site.

Translocation should only be undertaken where these risks are appropriately considered and assessed to be outweighed by the overall aim and benefits.
2.10.6Rehoming of introduced species (e.g. donkeys or horses) must only be done where animal welfare is safeguarded.
2.10.7The RSPCA advocates for the implementation of strategies to avoid or mitigate adverse welfare impacts of pollution on wild animals, e.g. plastics, single use materials etc.
2.10.8The RSPCA advocates for the prohibition of recreational activities which have significant negative impacts on wild animals (e.g. death of platypus in enclosed yabby traps).
2.11Living in proximity with wild animals
2.11.1The RSPCA acknowledges that there are circumstances where conflicts may occur between humans and wild animals arising from living in close proximity. Steps should be taken to avoid these conflicts or manage them to minimise the risk of negative animal welfare impacts.
2.11.2The RSPCA advocates for measures to be taken to avoid or reduce the risk of negative welfare impacts to wild animals living in proximity to humans. For example, such measures might include preventing pet dogs and cats from harming wildlife when in and around the property , ensuring easy egress points for wildlife out of pools or fenced gardens, use of wildlife safe netting where appropriate, and maintaining native shrubs and trees as food sources, habitat and ecosystem maintenance.

(adopted 08/04/2024)

[1] Sharp T and Saunders G (2011). A model for assessing the relative humaneness of pest animal control methods (2nd Edition). Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, ACT

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Updated on April 26, 2024

RSPCA policies reflect the best available evidence to direct and guide RSPCA and others, to promote and achieve good animal welfare outcomes.

Reference to ‘the RSPCA’ or ‘RSPCA’ in this document means RSPCA Australia and each of the RSPCA Australia member Societies.

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