The HSUS Disappointed by Va. Game Board’s Regulatory Vote on Inhumane Fox Pens

Recommendations proposed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and its Board of Directors significantly narrow the options to regulate Virginia’s inhumane fox pens and were met with disappointment by The Humane Society of the United States.

Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS said: “These cruel, inhumane pens should be phased out altogether. The Humane Society of the United States and our Virginia members and supporters are disappointed at the weak and ineffectual proposal. A DGIF study revealing that more than half of the foxes radio-collared in the state’s largest pen died during competition demonstrates that this practice is simply unacceptable.”

Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA added: “We are deeply disappointed that the Board removed their own staff’s recommendation on rabies vaccination requirements, given the abundant testimony provided on this and other occasions from recognized rabies experts about the unreasonable risks of the spread of the deadly rabies virus presented by fox pens. As one of those experts said, fox pens constitute ‘viral Russian roulette’ for the people and animals of our state.”

However, The HSUS is encouraged that the Board is moving forward a regulation that would eliminate cash prizes in staged competition, which will discourage gambling and wagering.  Virginians do not tolerate individuals profiting from a bloodsport, which ends in animal mutilation and deaths.

Fox pens are fenced enclosures where dogs are released to chase wild-caught, stocked foxes, often killing them. More than 6,000 foxes were subjected to these unethical and inhumane events in Virginia in the last five years. 


  • On Oct. 18, 2012, the Board voted unanimously to consider increased fox pen regulations during the 2013 review process after Virginians overwhelmingly requested a thorough examination of this concerning practice.
  • During the 2013 legislative session, Senate Bill 1280, legislation to crack down on inhumane fox pens, passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 24 to 16. A broad coalition of Virginians testified in support of SB 1280, including a Virginia hunter, a resident living next door to a fox pen, a former trapper, a religious leader, wildlife care experts and animal welfare leaders.
  • Dogs often harm and kill the fenced wildlife, fueling a constant – and often illegal – interstate demand to stock enclosures with more foxes.
  • In the fall of 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to these pens. Virginia officials temporarily shut down 31 of the Commonwealth’s 41 pens operating at the time for violating permit requirements. 
  • Captive fenced wildlife facilities are historically responsible for the spread of some strains of rabies and other deadly wildlife diseases. 

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