Glue traps are heinously cruel. Retailers should be banned from selling them

Regardless of arbitrary social classifications of "pet" and "pest," no animal deserves to suffer in such a way.

Glue traps immobilize mice and rats, leaving them to slow dehydrate, suffer and die

Regardless of arbitrary social classifications of "pet" and "pest," no animal deserves to suffer in such a way. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

Rats and mice aren't typically considered in the same category of "cute and cuddly" as say, puppies or kittens. To most people, rodents are a nuisance, a hazard, something to get rid of, fast. And one common way to clear one's home or business of such pests is with the use of glue traps, also known as sticky traps, to capture and dispose of them.

The traps, which use a strong adhesive to render animals who walk upon them unable to escape, are cheap and seemingly effective. They are also incredibly cruel: they trap mice and rats, but they don't actually kill them. On its website, the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) explains how immobilized mice and rats "often die a long, slow, agonizing death of starvation, dehydration and exhaustion." Essentially, they are stuck, so they can't get food or water, and thus, die slowly.

And regardless of arbitrary social classifications of "pet" and "pest," no animal deserves to suffer in such a way.

In fact, one group of animal activists, Canadians for Animal Protection, believe glue traps are so cruel that they have taken some of Canada's biggest retailers — Walmart, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Home Depot and Lowes — to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, in hopes of banning them from selling the traps. 

Court challenge

The group first appeared in court in April, and will appear again near the end of July, at which time lawyers for the retailers are expected to request the court strike out the application, arguing that the activists do not have the right to use a civil court to enforce a criminal law. The activists cite federal animal cruelty laws that deem it illegal to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to animals.

Winnipeg veterinarian Dr. Jonas Watson agrees with the group's position, pointing out that glue traps are also entirely indiscriminate, often trapping other animals as well. "Small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians that fall victim to these products invariably suffer terrible distress and often painful deaths," he says. "And an animal's efforts to free itself typically causes them to become further adhered."

Dr. Watson points out that humane alternatives are available, adding that, "glue traps represent a cruel and archaic approach to rodent control and have no place in a progressive society concerned with animal welfare."

Indeed, humane methods of rodent control are readily available. Retailers included in the activists' lawsuit, including Walmart and Canadian Tire, sell humane live traps (for as low as $19.99 on Walmart.ca at time of writing). Many pest control companies also offer humane solutions.

Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control, which operates in Ontario and Quebec, specializes in it. Its general manager, Ryan Rainville, says that in most cases, that cheap and widely available inhumane techniques and tools don't actually solve the problem long term. Meaning that while glue traps may be one of the cheapest methods at about $1.50 each, the problem with reoccur if the building's openings are not sealed or fixed. 

And just because a cruel method of pest control is available and affordable does not mean it is ethical to use.

A last resort

Retired lawyer Sandra Schnurr, who is part of the Canadian Animal Protection group, said she sent personalized letters to each of the stores about the traps, but did not receive any responses. When the VHS launched its campaign against Canadian Tire, Rona, The Home Depot and Walmart in 2018, it received a response only from Rona, which noted that they "offer a range of alternatives to glue traps but will continue to sell the product."

So going to court, which Schnurr says she is personally funding, is the group's last resort. She calls it "a test case" for citizens and animal welfare organizations to launch other court cases against corporations that arguably facilitate cruelty to animals.  

Even the smallest and perhaps least appreciated animals with which we share our spaces deserve to be protected from blatant and heinous cruelty. If we would consider it wrong to leave a kitten or bird to starve to death stuck to a glue trap, surely we can and should extend that compassion to mice and rats, and simply seek humane methods of pest control instead. And until retailers stop selling cruel glue traps, we consumers can certainly stop buying them.   

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.


Jessica Scott-Reid is a freelance writer and animal advocate.