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February 18, 2010

For Now, Cruel Fox Penning Prohibited in Florida

A proper definition of staged animal fighting would logically include the barbaric practice of fox penning.

Foxes and coyotes are trapped in the wild, packed into a truck with other injured animals, and shipped, often hundreds of miles, in cramped cages and typically denied food or water. When the animals reach their final destination, they are released into a fenced enclosure, sometimes with debilitating injuries. Dogs are set loose and then they chase down the captive animals and sometimes tear them apart.

Caged fox
Georgia DNR

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) took a major step forward yesterday toward stopping coyote and fox pens in that state, instituting a provisional ban through June and working on a draft rule package concerning such facilities. We’ll continue to press the case for the abolition of fox penning in Florida, and we’re tackling the practice in a number of other states, particularly in the South.

The Florida decision followed months of reports from neighbors who witnessed dogs ripping apart coyotes in a nearby pen. In late 2009, the FWC arrested 12 people for illegally buying and possessing foxes and coyotes to stock pens. Following the arrests, the FWC issued an executive order, putting a moratorium on issuing permits for chasing foxes or coyotes in enclosures.

Yesterday, commissioners heard from citizens who opposed the blood sport. One child stepped forward and explained his devotion to hunting, but said fox pens were something he would never come to accept. One man drove more than 300 miles just to tell the commission that he was a Florida citizen and would not tolerate cruel fox pens.

In the fall of 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens involving both federal and state authorities uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to these pens. In Alabama, 18 individuals were arrested for activities related to penning and the live animal market. Authorities brought charges against fox pen operators and trappers in half a dozen other states.

FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said in a statement that he leaned toward an outright ban of the practice but also felt the process should be given a chance for review.

"I'm not sure I'll support the draft rules when they come back," Barreto said. "I don't see any sport in the animals' having no escape. I personally don't agree with the practice."

The HSUS is grateful to the FWC for enacting the ban on fox and coyote penning. But the ban is still considered temporary as they consider possible regulations.

The FWC could make the ban permanent—and we encourage them to do just that.

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