After a year of deliberating over the issue, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted unanimously last Wednesday in favor of a statewide ban on fox and coyote pens.
Fox and coyote pens were created for what their proponents call a well-intentioned means of training hunting dogs. However, they’re nothing more than a barbaric form of state-sanctioned cruelty that is no different from dog fighting.
After foxes and coyotes are trapped in the wild, they’re shipped to pens and released only to run for their lives and find there’s nowhere to hide while dogs chase them in training exercises often ending in injury or death by literally being cornered and torn apart.
While regulations require that escape routes be provided, investigations have found that these routes and hiding places are sometimes intentionally blocked.
Not only do pens inflict unnecessary cruelty of a most violent nature on wildlife, they also open the door to other problems, such as a black market for coyotes and the spread of diseases, including the introduction of a new form of rabies that came into Florida with animals from Texas.
“The animal smugglers could also set loose on Florida a tapeworm that can be picked up from foxes, coyotes, dogs and cats. In humans, it causes parasitic tumors in the liver, sometimes in the brain or lungs, with symptoms that don’t show up for five to 15 years. It has already turned up in foxes taken from South Carolina pens,” according to the FWC.
Last November, a 10-month FWC investigation lead to 12 arrests for illegal animal trade, in addition to uncovering pens operating without permits. In February, commissioners agreed to temporarily ban the practice while possible solutions were considered.
While they could have chosen to slowly phase out pens or increase regulations, they voted on an all out ban, which will carry over from the temporary ban.
“We commend the FWC for this decision,” said Camilla Fox, Executive Director of Project Coyote and Wildlife Consultant for the Animal Welfare Institute.
“The Commission was under a lot of pressure from a small, vocal minority of pen operators to sanction this activity. But they made the right decision today by banning a practice that should be relegated to the recesses of America’s dark past. Florida’s commendable stand on this issue sends a clear message to the other states that sanctioning such brutal killing of wildlife is unacceptable. As a nation we have banned both dog fighting and cockfighting and it’s time we do the same for penning.”