The Associated Press has reported the closure of six fox pens in the aftermath of an investigation by the Animal Law Unit of the Attorney General’s office in Virginia. Twenty-three fox pens in the Commonwealth remain open.
Nine people pleaded guilty for stocking the pens with illegally purchased wildlife and face fines and suspended sentences. The six pens that had their licenses revoked are located in the counties of Buckingham, Lunenburg, Appomattox, Dinwiddie, King and Queen, and Brunswick. Two are permanently shut down; four could potentially reopen if the verdicts are appealed and overturned.
In general, wildlife may not be purchased and sold in Virginia. Pen owners may legally contract with trappers to provide foxes, compensation for which must be based on the trapper’s time and effort for the service.
A law passed in 2014 is intended to eventually phase out fox penning entirely. No new fox pens may be licensed in Virginia, but the existing pens were grandfathered and eventually will have to close.
Some mounted foxhunting clubs use fox pens to train puppies. The pens are also used by individuals who simply enjoy running their hounds. Foxes are provided with refuges within the pen to allow them to escape hounds when pressed. Licensing rules also limit the number of hounds that may be in a pen at any one time. However, fox pens have been under fire from animal rights activists for years. Other foxhound breeders, night hunters, and field trial enthusiasts are said to use pens for competitions and betting, according to opponents.
Bob Duncan, executive director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that fox penning is a way to have sport with hounds without the danger of running through crops or causing accidents on the highway. The fox pens are popular, he said, and people come from states all across the country to train and run their dogs.
Posted July 20, 2018