RSPCA Australia acknowledges that, in certain circumstances, it is necessary to manage populations of wild animals in order to reduce adverse impacts on human activities, health and wellbeing or the environment and also to protect the welfare of individual animals. When undertaken, the RSPCA believes management activities must use methods that are humane, target-specific and effective.
Codes of practice and standard operating procedures for the humane control of pest animals in Australia have been developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries with support from the Australian Government and these are available on the PestSmart website.PestSmart is a database of information on vertebrate invasive animals in Australia and New Zealand managed and maintained by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions and the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra and supported by the Australian Government through the Bureau of Rural Sciences.
The codes of practice (COP) provide general information on best practice management for different animal species, control strategies, animal biology and impact and also a summary of the humaneness, efficacy, cost-effectiveness and target specificity of each control method. Standard operating procedures (SOP) describe specific control techniques and their application as well as animal welfare impacts for target and non-target species and strategies to minimise any harmful impacts.
The RSPCA is concerned that some of these methods, such as poisoning with 1080 or pindone, involve considerable suffering even when carried out according to best practice. However, while these methods remain in use, it is important that operators are informed about how to apply them in the most humane and effective way.
The ‘humaneness’ of a control method refers to the overall welfare impact that the method has on an individual animal. A relatively more humane method will have less impact than a relatively less humane method. A model for assessing the relative humaneness of pest animal control methods was developed under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS). This model has been used by an independent expert panel to assess the humaneness of a variety of methods used to control invasive animal species in Australia and these assessments are also available on the PestSmart website.
Links to the COP, SOPs and humaneness assessments relating to the management of rabbits can be found below:
Code of practice
Model code of practice for the humane control of rabbits
Standard operating procedures
RAB001: Inoculation of rabbits with rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV)
RAB002: Ground baiting of rabbits with 1080
RAB003: Aerial baiting of rabbits with 1080
RAB004: Ground baiting of rabbits with pindone
RAB005: Diffusion fumigation of rabbit warrens
RAB006: Rabbit Warren destruction by ripping
RAB007: Rabbit warren destruction using explosives
RAB008: Trapping of rabbits using padded-jaw traps
RAB009: Ground shooting of rabbits
RAB010: Bait delivery of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV)
Humaneness assessments for rabbit control methods:
 Sharp T. & Saunders G. (2008). A model for assessing the relative humaneness of pest animal control methods. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry.
 Sharp T. & Saunders G. (2011). A model for assessing the relative humaneness of pest animal control methods (Second edition). Canberra, ACT: Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry.