Virginia has had an incredible track record of protecting animals, both wild and companion. We have criminalized dog fighting and banned new captive hunting ranches from the Commonwealth. It is long-overdue that we address the cruel and unsporting practice of fox penning and put an end to this irresponsible treatment of wildlife.
I was born and raised on a farm here in Virginia. I have been a licensed rehabilitator with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) for over 15 years. During this time I have seen a great deal of suffering, but none as widespread and preventable as fox penning. This activity also presents a major threat to the health of our wildlife populations by creating ideal conditions for unnatural disease outbreaks.
For those unfamiliar with this practice, it involves live-trapping foxes from the wild, trucking them miles away from their familiar habitat, and releasing them into fenced enclosures to be chased down by packs of dogs. In many cases, animals are torn apart alive ( http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/fox_penning/ )
Fox penning serves absolutely zero purpose in preserving the health of the Commonwealth’s wildlife; in fact it threatens it. Records from the DGIF show that other species fall victim behind these fences too. In 2008, after a competition in which 800 dogs were released in a pen, a bear was discovered killed with hundreds of puncture wounds inflicted by dogs. These pens have also proven to breed serious strains of rabies and other communicable diseases.
Since SB202 was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in the 2012 session, the bill has reached the Senate committee for a hearing (2/9/2012). Because of the outpouring of support from VA residents to end this cruel and unsporting practice, the committee voted to reinvest time and resources into investigating the currently operating 41 fox pens. After this year-long investigation ends in 2013, the legislature will revisit this black eye on the Commonwealth.
The next 12 months are a crucial time to keep the pressure on our elected officials and those we entrust with appropriately managing the wildlife of Virginia. Make a call to Gov. McDonnell today (804-786-2211) and ask him to take a stand against this abomination and return scientifically-sound management practices to the Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries. Your House and Senate representatives need to hear from you too! Find them here: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform
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