The Humane Society of the United States praised a unanimous decision by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to prohibit the cruel practice of chasing of foxes and coyotes by dogs inside a fenced enclosure.
In this practice, called fox penning, foxes and coyotes are trapped from the wild, often shipped long distances and then released inside enclosures to literally run for their lives as packs of dogs chase them. Dogs are judged in competitions on how relentlessly they pursue the captive wildlife. The dogs often injure or tear apart the foxes and coyotes.
The cruelty of these competitions creates a constant demand to restock pens with more wildlife, meaning that more wild foxes and coyotes are trapped and transported, often in inhumane ways.
“We thank Chairman Rodney Barreto and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners for their decisive leadership and thorough work to end the inherently cruel practice of fox penning that has no place in the 21st century,” said Jennifer Hobgood, Florida state director for The HSUS.
In 2009, FWC law enforcement arrested 12 people on 46 total citations for illegal activity related to fox pens. Undercover officers posed as fox and coyote dealers selling animals illegally to pen operators. Neighbors of a pen in Holt, Fla. also spent more than a year documenting coyotes attacked by dogs against the pen’s fence.
At its February 2010 meeting, FWC Commissioners voted to prohibit fox and coyote pens until the agency had the opportunity to form a stakeholder process and consider draft rule packages to govern the facilities.
In June, FWC staff presented a series of options to commissioners, including phasing out fox pens or increasing regulations to allow the activity to continue in Florida. The commissioners choose to approve a draft rule prohibiting enclosures altogether.
- The HSUS served on the 2010 FWC fox and coyote pen stakeholder committee as well as the stakeholder committee formed in 1990. The first stakeholder process resulted in a permit system for fox pens, which has met chronic non-compliance and documented illegal fox and coyote sales.
- Far from a traditional activity, fox and coyote pens only emerged in the early 1980s.
- Animals within a fox pen are typically chased by dogs seven days a week. Scored trials sometimes last for days, with as many as hundreds of dogs being released at one time and hours of competition each day.
- These enclosures promote the spread of wildlife diseases in Florida and have been responsible for the outbreak of unique rabies strains and other canine diseases, as well as the spread of a parasite lethal to native wildlife and people. In 1994, an outbreak of a Texas strain of rabies was tied to a fox pen in Alachua County.
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