This week wildlife officials in Virginia agreed to examine the practice of fox penning in the state after supporters and opponents spoke out about the issue at a meeting in Richmond.
Opponents call the so-called sport of fox penning nothing more than blatant animal cruelty that should be banned entirely. The practice involves trapping foxes, and coyotes, in the wild, transporting them whether or not they’re injured and putting them in fenced enclosures where they’re forced to run for their lives and are often caught and brutally torn apart by hunting dogs who are chasing them for practice and competitions.
Supporters argue that it’s a good way to train dogs without trespassing, that foxes aren’t intentionally killed and that it’s a southern tradition.
The Board of Game and Inland Fisheries could have enacted a ban, but instead passed the issue off to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which is expected to study the practice and make a recommendation in the spring. If new rules are proposed, a public comment period will follow.
“The process needs to start somewhere in order for our constituents to talk about the regulations,” Curtis Dixon Colgate, a board member from Virginia Beach who proposed the review told the San Francisco Chronicle. He also said the range of actions could include a “full-blown moratorium to everything in between.”
Under current state law, pens must be at least 100 acres with places for the foxes to hide. However, previous investigations have found that some pen owners intentionally block hiding spots, leaving penned animals with no place to escape.
Not only does this practice cause unnecessary suffering for wildlife, but it also opens the door to other problems, such as the black market for wild animals and the spread of diseases that can affect wildlife, pets and people. Before fox and coyote penning was banned in Florida, animals that were imported brought in a new form of rabies from Texas.
Over the past four years, nearly 5,000 foxes were trapped and put in approximately 40 pens, located mostly in rural parts of central and southern Virginia, reports the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Pen owners claim that foxes who die naturally or escape need to be “restocked,” but animal advocates believe that at that number, they’re being terrorized and killed. Other supporters claim that not all of the foxes are taken from the wild, and they’re born and bred there, as if whether they were captured or bred in captivity makes any difference in the level of fear and suffering they can experience.
“Fox penning is animal fighting under any rational analysis. It is not hunting. … There are no ethics of fair chase involved.” said Robin Robertson Starr, the Richmond SPCA’s chief executive officer, who supports a full ban.
Fortunately, most Virginia residents are opposed to this practice. A recent statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research revealed that 67 percent of Virginia voters oppose the practice of fox penning, while only eight percent support it.
Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the end of fox penning in another state. No regulations can ever make this barbaric practice any more ethically defensible than any other type of animal fighting and state resources not be used to attempt to enforce regulations for a bloodsport that involves trapping and torturing wild animals for the twisted amusement of a few.
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