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Statement on Virginia Committee Vote on Fox Penning

The Humane Society of the United States issued the following statements on Virginia House of Delegates committee vote on Senate Bill 1280, authored by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, to crack down on inhumane fox pens. The measure, which did not pass the committee, would have stopped this egregious form of wildlife abuse.

“We made significant progress this session in ridding the Commonwealth of its last legal bloodsport,” said Sen. Marsden, “The pressure from the overwhelming majority of Virginians opposed to this practice requires the General Assembly to take action, and while today’s House Committee decision is disappointing, it’s only a matter of time before we end these cruel staged competitions in our state.”

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

“The Humane Society of the United States and its supporters are disappointed Senate Bill 1280 did not move forward today,” said Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS. “We urge the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to take into consideration concerns raised during the recent hearings, quickly implement regulations to crack down on this cruel practice and help put an end to Virginia’s last blood sport.”

The bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 24 to 16. A broad coalition of Virginians testified in support of SB 1280, including 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 who all testified in support of this legislation.

Thanks to Sen. Marsden’s leadership, this issue has gained momentum over the last year, making Virginians very aware of the cruelties associated with fox penning. Last year, senators voted for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to study fox penning. As a result, this spring the board over the DGIF will now consider additional fox pen regulations.

More information is available at humanesociety.org/Virginia.


  • 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. 
  • Captive fenced wildlife facilities are historically responsible for the spread of some strains of rabies and other deadly wildlife diseases.  

Media Contacts: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org