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May 13, 2009

The HSUS Finds Possible Violations of NC Wildlife Pen Regulations

The Humane Society of the United States

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Humane Society of the United States documented apparent violations of state regulations at nearly a dozen wildlife pens, or controlled hunting preserves, in nine counties in North Carolina. Wildlife pens are fenced enclosures where packs of dogs pursue and kill captive foxes and coyotes, often in competitions.

Nearly every wildlife pen fence examined showed areas of disrepair, which could lead to the spread of diseases from the captive animals, sometimes transported illegally from other states, to wild populations if captive animals escape. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission regulations require that fox pens be enclosed with a dog-proof fence that is designed to prevent the escape of foxes released within the pen and is properly maintained at all times.

HSUS investigators found areas in fences with exposed holes where animals possibly could dig out; patched holes; areas where fencing was falling in; fence line not anchored where an animal could possibly crawl underneath; an open gate; and areas where vegetation was growing over the fence. 

"This investigation shows that when these captive animals are not being mauled or run down by packs of dogs, they may be able to dig out of the enclosure and create a disease risk for surrounding wildlife and people," said Amanda Arrington, North Carolina state director for The HSUS. "Regulations are clearly not a deterrent for at least some pens to violate them and continue to operate."

House Bill 1253, sponsored by Rep. Ty Harrell, D-41, and Senate Bill 739, sponsored by Sen. Neal Hunt, R-15, and the late Sen. Vernon Malone, D-14, would prohibit fox and coyote controlled hunting preserves.

The appalling practice of wildlife penning begins when coyotes and foxes are caught in the steel jaws of a leghold trap and suffer excruciating pain. The animals are then removed from the traps and packed into a cage with other injured animals. Trappers from Midwestern states sell animals across the Southeast, transporting coyotes and foxes hundreds of miles in cramped cages with no access to food or water. Some animals die on the trip.

Foxes and coyotes who survive the trip are bought by wildlife enclosure owners, and many are released into the pen with their injuries untreated. They are forced to run for their lives when dogs are released in the pen. This video also shows a coyote attacked by a dog pack within a pen, footage captured during a recent interstate investigation of pens conducted by state wildlife agencies.

Wildlife Pens:

  • Under natural conditions, coyotes and foxes tend to be solitary animals outside of the breeding season, minimizing disease transmission between individuals. However, artificially containing animals in concentrated areas, like pens, increases the likelihood of disease transmission. Diseases in the past spread by animals associated with pens include rabies strains and other canid diseases as well as lethal parasites.
  • In a survey published in 1998 by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission reported regulation violations associated with fox and coyote pens, including illegal importation of stocked animals and breach of enclosure disease quarantine. Recently, the WRC has also documented multiple cases of fence breaches and hypothesized that the increase of coyote populations in recent years in the state is due to the stocking of coyotes in pens.
  • Wildlife officials estimate that thousands of coyotes and foxes are shipped up and down the East Coast to stock these pens. In fall 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens conducted by state wildlife agencies uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to pens. In Alabama alone, 18 individuals were arrested for activities related to penning and the live market, including one individual from North Carolina. In April 2009, Kentucky officials arrested several individuals for illegally buying and selling animals to stock pens in the Southeast.
  • Multiple organizations and associations have encouraged regulations against the transporting of wildlife for penning purposes, including the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and American Veterinary Medical Association.

The HSUS works to stop wildlife abuse across the country. Visit humanesociety.org/wildlifeabuse for more information.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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