Oregon Court of Appeals Upholds Captive Hunting Rules

In a blow to captive hunt operators, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a decision confirming the state’s authority to regulate the possession of captive wildlife, and to stop the trophy shooting of tame animals trapped inside fenced enclosures. The ruling today threw out a lawsuit filed by notorious captive hunt operator Clark Couch and other disgruntled individuals, which sought a declaration that by regulating captive species, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had somehow “taken ownership” of privately held animals.

“This is not the first time that Oregon courts have thrown out misguided lawsuits by Couch and his captive hunting cohorts,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The Humane Society of the United States. “Shooting tame animals behind a fence is not a sport, and certainly not conservation, and we are delighted that the court has upheld the State of Oregon’s authority to crack down on this inhumane and unsporting practice.”

In their unceasing effort to avoid regulation by state wildlife officials, game farm operators in Oregon filed this lawsuit hoping to have their own animals declared the property of the state, and thus pave the way to obtaining monetary compensation for the unconstitutional “taking” of their animals.

The State of Oregon has sought to protect wildlife populations against harms stemming from holding native or exotic wildlife in captivity. These facilities typically hold large numbers of wildlife together in captivity, and thus pose substantial risks to native wildlife species and the public, including the potential for disease transmission, particularly chronic wasting disease– an untreatable, fatal and highly contagious neurological disease found in deer and elk. 

These operations often hold wildlife in captivity for the purpose of captive hunting, where individuals pay private hunting operations to kill captive animals in an enclosed area.  In addition to Oregon, at least 10 states have instituted a complete ban on canned hunting of mammals, with an additional 15 states imposing a partial ban.

The HSUS filed a brief in the lawsuit as amicus curiae, or a “friend-of-the-court,” to support the state of Oregon in defending its ability to regulate the use and possession of captive-held wildlife.

The HSUS was represented in the case pro bono by the law firm Bingham McCutchen, and lawyers with the HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section.

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