In 1991, the European Union (EU) passed Regulation 3254/91, which bans the import of wild fur products derived from 13 wildlife species into the European Union from any country, unless the use of foothold traps were prohibited in said country or trapping methods used in said country meet internationally agreed-upon humane trapping standards. EU Regulation 3254/91 remains in place today, with a total of 19 species listed.
The main purpose, as stated in the agreement, is to lay down “harmonized technical standards” offering a sufficient level of protection to the welfare of trapped animals and regulating both the production and use of animal traps, as well as to facilitate trade between traps, and pelts/products manufactured from species covered by the Agreement. The agreement also seeks to develop an international standardization that scientifically addresses and accounts for animal welfare concerns related to the trapping of furbearers. Whether for pest control, research, disease control, wildlife management or the commercial fur trade - the AIHTS seeks to establish the same scientifically validated standards in all areas where trapping is to take place.
Following years of negotiations, the European Union agreed to two humane trapping agreements in the 1990’s. The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) was reached with the European Union, Canada and Russia in 1997. A separate agreement (referred to as the Agreed Minute) was reached between the European Union and The United States of America due to US regulatory requirements. Both Agreements incorporate the same standards. The EU Council ratified both in 1998.
The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards applies to the 19 listed species within the agreement regardless of the reason for trapping (which can include wildlife management purposes such as pest control, conservation endeavors, or obtaining fur, skin, meat etc.). Under the agreements, all traps used in the procurement of fur resources from fur-bearing animals must be tested against the standards put forth by the AIHTS and must be certified by a designated competent authority. Traps failing to meet the standards must be replaced with traps that do.
The AIHTS establishes standardized criteria for rating traps based on species and by method of use. Lethal traps, designed to dispatch the animal immediately, are rated according to the time to loss of consciousness. Restraining traps, designed to hold or capture an animal alive, are rated according to potential for infliction of injury. These ratings form only part of the overall trap approval process.
The AIHTS requires that suitable traps be certified as meeting the AIHTS, initially by fall 2007. If there are no traps currently certified for a particular species, the agreement mandates that research continues to search for traps that meet the proper standards. Under the Agreement, involved parties must ensure appropriate processes are in place for permitting the use of traps, as well as enforcing and regulating trapping laws and trap use within their jurisdiction. It is also recommended that trapper training/education in humane devices/methods be administered. The Agreement also advocates for incorporating ISO testing procedures into the trap certification process.
Canada currently implements the AIHTS on a bilateral basis with the European Union since it was ratified in 1999 by the Canadian government. The USA continues to make progress on implementing Best Management Practices under the bilateral EU agreement.
The Canadian Wildlife Directors, competent authorities for implementation of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) have approved a 2-phase process for implementing the AIHTS in Canada. The traps listed by name have all been certified by a governing competent authority as meeting the requirements of the AIHTS for specific species.