Few people have heard of “penning.” This cruel practice involves the live trapping of coyotes and foxes (generally with leghold traps or snares) who are then often shipped and traded across state lines and sold to penning facilities. The captured wild canids are then released into pens and used to “train” hunting dogs. Considered “sport” and “entertainment” by some, one terrified coyote or fox may be pitted against packs of hound dogs who are released into the pens to pursue the wild animals—domestic canine pitted against wild cousin. This practice parallels dog and cockfighting—activities made illegal in all US states. Most penned coyotes and foxes literally become live bait and are torn apart and killed by the dog packs. As a result, pens must be continually restocked with wild canids.
Despite a resolution by the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2008 urging the adoption of state-by-state regulations prohibiting the practice, penning is still legal in several states throughout the Southeast and Midwest.
In Florida, penning was temporarily suspended on February 17 after a public hearing and comment period generated more than 2,500 letters in support of a ban and two major newspapers came out with editorials in favor of a permanent ban. An undercover investigation of penning operators in the state led to the arrest of 12 people and the issuance of 46 citations. One week later, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a report recommending that the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (NRC) prohibit coyote and fox penning citing ethical and ecological related concerns. In its report, the DNR stated, “...the DNR is recommending that the NRC not allow an individual to chase or kill a coyote or fox in an enclosure with the use or aid of dogs.”
In both Florida and Indiana, AWI wildlife consultant, Camilla Fox, submitted letters endorsed by more than 60 prominent scientists, wildlife biologists, veterinarians, ethicists and attorneys urging the state wildlife agencies and governors to prohibit penning and to ban trade in coyotes and foxes for such purposes.
The letter, with signatures which included internationally prominent scientists Dr. Michael Soulé, Dr. Marc Bekoff and Dr. Reed Noss and ethicists Dr. Holmes Rolston III and Dr. Dale Jamieson, states, “...we believe this practice—commonly referred to as 'penning'—violates the concept of fair chase and runs counter to fundamental concepts of wildlife management. There are serious ecological, ethical, disease and health-related issues associated with penning. We strongly support a ban on this practice.”
AWI, in partnership with Project Coyote and other allies, will continue pursuing a ban on this practice nationwide. We thank our members in Indiana and Florida who responded to our call for action on this issue.