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June 23, 2010

Fla. Fish and Wildlife Votes to Prohibit Fox and Coyote Pens

On Wednesday, The Humane Society of the United States praised a unanimous decision by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to prohibit the chasing of foxes and coyotes by dogs within a fenced enclosure.

In this practice, foxes and coyotes are trapped in the wild, often shipped long distances and then released inside enclosures called "fox pens" to literally run for their lives. Dogs are judged in competitions on their pursuit of the captive wildlife. The dogs often injure or kill the wild animals, leading to a constant demand to restock pens with more wildlife.

"We thank Chairman Rodney Barreto and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners for their strong leadership and decision today to end an inherently cruel practice that has caused the needless suffering of countless animals," 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.

Today, 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 Commission will vote to adopt the final rule at its Sept. 1-3 meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

Background:

  • The HSUS served on the 2010 FWC 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 hours of competition each day. One trial may involve the release of several hundred dogs at one time.
  • These enclosures promote the spread of wildlife diseases in Florida, and are historically 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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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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