The Indiana House passed legislation allowing privately-owned facilities in the state to stock deer and elk for trophy-seekers, letting them pay to shoot the semi-tame animals trapped in enclosures for guaranteed kills. By shipping deer and elk across state lines to be stocked in these fenced enclosures, captive hunts greatly increase the risk for deadly chronic wasting disease to infect native wildlife. Humane Society of the United States Indiana State Director Erin Huang issued the following statement in response:
“The Indiana House made a disappointing mistake by passing a bill in support of captive hunting. These facilities lack any element of fair chase, and this mockery of traditional hunting threatens our wild deer herds and is a black eye on our state. By passing this bill, the House has placed the special interests of a few individuals over the health of our wildlife and the wishes of the majority of Hoosiers. House Bill 1453 was strongly opposed by a wide group of organizations and individuals, including animal advocates, environmental conservationists and ethical sportsmen. The Humane Society of the United States strongly urges the Senate to oppose this bill.”
In 2005, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources issued an emergency rule banning captive hunts, but a lawsuit filed by captive hunt operators stalled enforcement of the ban. A handful of captive hunt facilities continued thereafter to operate in Indiana under an injunction. After two courts issued conflicting decisions, a recent Court of Appeals decision declared that the DNR did not have clear authority to ban such operations under current law.
A competing bill, Senate Bill 442, clarifies the authority of the DNR to regulate captive wildlife, and would completely prohibit captive hunting, hunting via the Internet, and hunting with the use of drones in Indiana. S.B. 442, introduced by Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, is pending in the Senate Natural Resources Committee and has not received a hearing.
- 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.
- The high densities that characterize captive hunting ranches create breeding grounds for disease, such as chronic wasting disease—a deadly, incurable disease that infects deer, elk, and other cervids. There is no live test for CWD and it is always fatal. The Indianapolis Star conducted an in-depth four-part series on the captive hunting industry and the disease risks that are associated with it.
- Chronic Wasting Disease has now been found in 23 states. In 14 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Media Relations