A RISE in the number of animal snares being set near residential areas has led to fears that children could be injured.

The Scottish SPCA and police say there has been a worrying increase, including in private gardens in Edinburgh.

Over the past year there have been reports of several pets, including at least two dogs, being injured close to homes.

The Scottish SPCA today called for the Scottish Government to ban snaring, claiming the wire traps are inhumane. It also released a report revealing traps are routinely used to catch cats, dogs, deer, badgers and even otters, despite landowners’ claims they are only for pest control.

Penny Johnston, an inspector with the Scottish SPCA, said: “There have been more cases of snares found close to residential areas, in some cases in grass just a few metres away from houses.

“There was a snare that caught a badger recently, set up not far from Queensferry Road. It is a worry that a small child might wander into one of these traps.

“There also seem to be more people setting up snares in private gardens around Edinburgh, probably to deal with urban foxes or rabbits. We feel the only way to deal with the problem is to ban the practice of snaring outright. Otherwise it can be impossible to discover who set a snare, and ultimately to prosecute those who set up illegal snares.”

The report on snaring was compiled from the evidence of Scottish SPCA inspectors, wildlife crime police officers and vets.

It showed that 269 animals caught in snares were reported to the society since 2004 – ranging from badgers and deer to pet cats and dogs. Only 23 per cent of the animals reported were “pests” such as of foxes and rabbits.

The report also revealed that, although snares are meant to be restraining devices, more than half the animals reported were either found dead in the snare or had to be put down.

Jim McGovern, wildlife crime co-ordinator for Lothian and Borders Police, said: “The police only really get reports of these traps when there is a question of a crime being committed, so it is only a handful every year.

“But that will just be the tip of the iceberg. We have seen quite a lot recently that have been set in urban areas, or very close to them, probably because people want to catch a fox.

“There is a real danger these traps could harm a child, and we have already seen pet dogs wander into them and sustain bad injuries. I think tighter legislation, rather than a ban, would be more effective and would allow those people who use snares for pest control to continue doing so.

“But we need some way to stop anyone who feels like just setting a snare – possibly in a place where a member of the public could be hurt.”