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Urgent plea for Aussie households to relinquish 'horrendous' devices

WARNING - CONFRONTING DETAILS: They may be old, rusted and illegal, but steel-jaw traps are continuing to maim pets and wildlife across South Australia.

Having conducted 30 rescues since 2018, RSPCA SA has issued an urgent plea for owners of the devices to relinquish them.

Its chief inspector Andrea Lewis said animals caught in the “awful devices” are often in such “poor condition” that amputation of the trapped limb or euthanasia are the only options.

An echidna and a steel-jaw trap in a box.
An echidna was caught in a steel-jaw trap in October. Source: RSPCA

Working to highlight the problem, she’s shared a cache of heartbreaking images and details of a number of horrifying incidents.

Incidents have involved an echidna in October, a possum in 2018 and multiple pet cats every year.

A cat found caught in one at Taperoo in March struggled so hard to free himself he snapped his pelvis, and his broken leg couldn’t be saved,” Ms Lewis said.

“We’ve got an incident under investigation now, involving a small dog that was badly injured after stepping on one."

Two images of cats caught in steel-jaw traps.
Cats are commonly caught in steel-jaw traps in South Australia. Source: RSPCA

What you need to know about steel-jaw traps

Steel-jaw traps were first described in the 16th Century and were used by Europeans to catch animals on large estates.

They were introduced to Australia by white settlers and were traditionally used to catch introduced species like foxes, feral cats and rabbits.

While owning the traps for decorative purposes is not illegal in South Australia, setting them to trap animals is.

  • Setting a trap can attract a penalty of up to $2500

  • If an animal is harmed the maximum penalty is up two years’ jail or a $20,000 fine.

Anyone who has a trap in their home for any purpose has been urged to surrender it to the RSPCA.

A dead brushtail possum lying on a table with its foot caught in a trap.
A brushtail possum was found deceased after it was caught in a steel-jaw trap. Source: RSPCA

They will then be turned into scrap metal, with all money raised used in the charity’s programs.

“The cruelty and suffering is horrendous, it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to own one of these things let alone use it,” Ms Lewis said.

“Most of them are probably rusting away in sheds, but some of them are being used and there’s no doubt some trapped animals aren’t being found, meaning they are dying in extreme pain.”

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