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Indiana House Natural Resources Committee Criticized for Passing Bill to Allow Cruel and Unsporting Captive Hunts

An amendment attached to S.B. 487 would legalize inhumane captive hunting of deer, elk and other cervids

The Humane Society of the United States criticized the Indiana House Natural Resources Committee for seeking to legalize captive hunting operations. An amendment attached to Senate Bill 487 would allow privately-owned facilities to stock captive deer, elk, moose, reindeer and caribou in fenced enclosures so trophy-seekers can pay to shoot the semi-tame animals for guaranteed kills. The practice threatens the health of native wildlife populations, potentially costing state taxpayers millions of dollars in disease eradication and lost hunting license revenue. Captive hunts have been directly linked to the spread of chronic wasting disease – a fatal, incurable disease that affects deer, elk and other cervids.
A new study out of the University of Wisconsin has shown that CWD prions in the soil are just as infectious as those prions directly passed from an infected animal, providing further documentation of the risk to wildlife from captive hunts, which stock animals at unnaturally high densities, greatly increasing the risk of spreading diseases such as CWD.
“We are extremely disappointed that the House Natural Resources Committee would allow these abhorrent operations to open in the Hoosier state,” said Erin Huang, Indiana state director for The HSUS. “Captive hunts are nothing more than drive-thru shooting operations where anyone can kill a guaranteed trophy for the right price. We urge the House of Representatives to oppose this bill and reject this backward step toward legalizing this inhumane and appalling practice that threatens our wild deer herds.”
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 operations 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 who visited Bellar’s facility testified and accused Bellar of drugging animals to make them easier to shoot, allowing animals to be illegally shot over bait and stating that animals were unloaded off trailers directly into shooting pens for easy kills.
The HSUS joined hunting groups, such as the Indiana Deer Hunters Association, in testifying against this amendment.

  • A 2010 statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. revealed that 80 percent of Indiana voters opposed captive hunts of large mammals such as deer and elk, and 81 percent supported a complete prohibition on captive hunts in the state.
  • Animals in captive hunts are stocked inside fenced enclosures, allowing ranches to often offer guaranteed trophies, “100 percent success” rates, and advertise "no kill, no pay" policies.
  • 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.
  • In 2005, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources passed administrative rules outlawing captive hunts. Operators of the captive hunts later filed a lawsuit in response that is still pending. A handful of captive hunt facilities continue to operate in Indiana under an injunction.
  • A deer recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease on a farm in Pennsylvania, which has sold 10 animals to captive deer farms in Indiana over the past three years – including the Jackson County facility.
  • Chronic Wasting Disease has now been found in 22 states. In 13 of the states the disease has been found in captive populations. CWD can cost taxpayers millions of dollars in response efforts – the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources alone has spent over $35 million since 2002 fighting the disease.
  • Although no studies show humans to currently be susceptible to CWD, research has shown that CWD is able to adapt outside of the species barrier, potentially placing public health at risk.
  • At more than 1,000 commercial captive hunt operations in the United States, trophy hunters pay to shoot native and exotic mammals – from zebra to endangered scimitar-horned Oryx – confined in fenced enclosures.
  • Many of the animals on these ranches have become accustomed to humans, making them easy targets for shooters.

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

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