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Legislation to Crack Down on Fox Penning Passes Virginia Senate

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Virginia Senate for advancing Senate Bill 1280, authored by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, to crack down on inhumane fox pens. The measure prohibits competitions between animals within enclosures and limits the number dogs released into pens. The legislation approved today by a bipartisan vote of 24-16 will now head to the House of Delegates. 

“Making a competitive event out of tormenting wildlife behind fences with packs of dogs, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Marsden. “I am so pleased by today’s progress in curbing fox pens in the Commonwealth and thank Senate leadership for limiting this unfortunate practice.”

Fox pens are fenced enclosures where dogs are released to chase wild-caught, stocked foxes, often killing them. In just five years, more than 6,000 foxes were subjected to these unethical and inhumane events in Virginia. The bill originally included a moratorium on new facilities, but did not limit the number of dogs released into existing facilities.

“Fox penning is truly Virginia’s last legal bloodsport,” said Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS. “Today was a huge vote to stop the practice of releasing countless dogs on captive foxes for staged events. The Humane Society of the United States and our supporters thank Senator Marsden for his tremendous leadership, and we encourage the House of Delegates to move this measure forward.”

More information is available at humanesociety.org/Virginia.


  • During the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Commission hearing, a Virginia hunter, a resident living next door to a fox pen, a former trapper, a religious leader, wildlife care experts and animal welfare leaders all testified in support of this legislation.
  • Dogs often harm and kill the fenced wildlife, fueling a constant – and often illegal interstate – demand to stock enclosures with more foxes.
  • In the fall of 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to these pens. Virginia officials temporarily shut down 31 of the Commonwealth’s 41 pens operating at the time for violating permit requirements. 
  • Pens are historically responsible for the spread of some strains of rabies and other wildlife diseases. 

Media Contacts: Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943, stwining@humanesociety.org

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