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The HSUS Reacts to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Proposed Rule Eliminating Exemptions for Captive Hunting of Endangered Species

A lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States over the sport-hunting of endangered antelopes at captive hunts, also known as “canned” hunts, has resulted in a new proposed rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prohibit the shooting of these species without individual permits. Captive hunts are privately owned fenced enclosures where shooters pay top dollar to kill semi-tame animals for trophies. The proposed rule would eliminate a former blanket rule allowing the canned hunting of captive endangered species, but unfortunately would still allow some canned hunting to continue on a case by case basis pursuant to individual permits.

In 2005, the USFWS issued a regulation that allowed three critically endangered African antelope species—the scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle—to be shot at captive hunts. The Humane Society of the United States joined other animal welfare groups and filed suit in federal court challenging this regulation. Safari Club International and other extremist trophy hunting groups intervened in the case and argued in favor of exempting the shooting of these endangered animals trapped in enclosures from the federal Endangered Species Act. 

In 2009, the court ruled in favor of the HSUS, and declared the regulation to be contrary to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS’s new proposed rule would remove this regulation and would prohibit captive hunting of endangered species absent a permit issued under limited circumstances.

“We applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for proposing this rule that would eliminate the blanket exemption that allowed critically endangered species to be shot for trophies,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for the HSUS.  “We remain concerned that the government will consider issuing permits on a case-by-case basis – the idea that killing these endangered species in captivity enhances their survival in the wild is nonsensical and contradictory to the inherent principles of the Endangered Species Act.”

Captive Hunts:

  • A HSUS undercover investigation recently aired on Animal Planet exposed unsporting and inhumane practices at captive hunts across the country. 
  • Captive hunts are generally reviled by the hunting community nationwide for violating the principle of fair chase. Hunting groups such as the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club, which maintain trophy records for big game hunting, will not consider animals shot at captive hunts for inclusion on their record lists.
  • Last month, Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Brad Sherman, D-Calif., introduced The Sportsmanship in Hunting Act, H.R. 2210, which cracks down on cruel captive hunts of exotic mammals and also bans the remote killing of animals via the Internet.

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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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