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The Humane Society of the United States Criticizes Indiana House Natural Resources Committee for Passing Bill to Allow Captive Hunts

H.B. 1265 would legalize the inhumane and unsporting practice of captive hunting of deer, elk and other cervids; HSUS calls on House of Representatives to reject bill

The Humane Society of the United States criticized the Indiana House Natural Resources Committee for passing legislation that seeks to legalize captive hunting operations. House Bill 1265 would allow privately-owned facilities to stock captive deer, elk, moose, reindeer and caribou in fenced pens so that trophy-seekers can pay to shoot the semi-tame animals trapped in enclosures for guaranteed kills—a practice that threatens the health of native wildlife populations and is opposed by responsible hunters who value an ethic of sportsmanship and fair chase.

“These pay-to-play shooting galleries bear no resemblance to traditional hunting and do not belong in the Hoosier state,” said Anne Sterling, Indiana state director for The HSUS. “Indiana residents—hunters and non-hunters alike—oppose these drive-thru killing operations. The Humane Society of the United States urges the House of Representatives to oppose this bill and reject this backwards step toward legalizing this inhumane and appalling practice.”

In 2005, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources issued an emergency rule banning captive hunts, but a lawsuit filed by captive hunt operators has stalled enforcement of the ban. Although no new captive hunts have been allowed in the state since 2005, Indiana is notorious for captive hunts, largely due to the high-profile case of captive hunt operator Russ Bellar. Customers that visited Bellar’s captive hunt facility testified that Bellar drugged his animals to make them easier to shoot, allowed his animals to be illegally shot over bait and that animals were unloaded off of trailers directly into shooting pens for easy kills.

A 2010 statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. revealed that 80 percent of Indiana voters oppose captive hunts of large mammals such as deer and elk, and 81 percent support a complete prohibition on captive hunts in the state.

Captive hunts are reviled by the traditional hunting community for violating the principle of fair chase. "Fair chase"—a concept central to the philosophy of many in the hunting community—does not exist in captive hunts. Captive hunts also threaten native wildlife populations, as captive animals can spread dangerous diseases such as chronic wasting disease and tuberculosis to native wild animals, either through fences or through escapes, potentially costing the state millions of dollars in eradication efforts and costing hunters game opportunities.

Facts

  • At more than 1,000 commercial captive hunt operations in the U.S., trophy hunters pay to shoot exotic mammals — from zebra to endangered scimitar-horned Oryx — confined in fenced enclosures. Captive hunting ranches offer guaranteed trophies and often advertise "no kill, no pay" policies. 
  • On June 20, 2011, an Animal Planet expose revealed never-before-seen footage taken by undercover HSUS investigators at several captive hunt facilities showing evidence of unsportsmanlike practices.
  • An outbreak of tuberculosis in Indiana in 2009 cost taxpayers more than $150,000 in response efforts.
  • Twenty-six states prohibit or restrict captive hunts.
  • In 2000, Montana voters approved a ballot initiative to ban captive hunting. The leading supporters of this campaign were lifelong hunters, including members of the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Montana Bowhunters Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

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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.