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November 13, 2007

Cruel New Twist for Trapped Animals

There are some sport hunting practices that are simply beyond the pale. Bear baiting, high-tech hound hunting, pheasant stocking, contest kills and canned hunts are among the worst. These practices are at odds with the rhetoric that hunters and hunting leaders employ in defending hunting, such as hunting playing a role in controlling populations, hunters abiding by fair chase standards, and the wildlife management industry not allowing the commercial and market exploitation of wildlife populations. All of the hunting practices mentioned above violate these self-expressed norms.

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© iStockphoto

But truly one of the most appalling practices is the live leghold trapping or snaring of coyotes and foxes, keeping these wild animals in cages as captives, selling them to hunting clubs, and then releasing them into penned or caged areas where they will be chased and attacked by hunting dogs. These "coyote pens" or "fox pens" provide a way to train hunting dogs and instill greater aggression in them, and are also just plain entertainment for the "hunters" who organize these spectacles. One coyote or fox may be pitted against as many as 20 hunting dogs, with the hunters periodically releasing "fresh" dogs to continue the chase. It's a fee-for-service program.

Yesterday, the law came down on individuals perpetrating this cruelty in a multi-state sting. Law enforcement personnel from Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia shut down 36 fox and coyote pens for violations of their permits, and charges will be leveled against those involved.

Fifty-five foxes, 25 coyotes and two bobcats, along with a moonshine still and 33 cardinals apparently used as bait, were seized in yesterday's probe—the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation.

This is a sick practice—an amalgam of canned hunting and animal fighting—and it must be put to an end. We've been working for the past few months in Indiana to crack down on the practice there. Indiana and other Midwestern states are major suppliers of coyotes to pen operators in the East and South.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has proposed a rule that would require trappers to kill coyotes within 24 hours of taking them—during off-season only*. This would prevent individuals from selling Indiana coyotes into the live market for only part of the year. The Indiana DNR and the state legislature need to take action and stop this practice year-round. All states should close their borders to this commercial trade in live wildlife and this odious cruelty.

*Editor's Note: The proposed rule would apply outside of Indiana's coyote trapping season, not during the season as previously stated.

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