Indiana Coyote Penning Investigation Uncovers Brutal Practices and Illegal Activity

At Least 19 States Still Allow Cruel Bloodsport

INDIANAPOLIS--Today, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Project Coyote, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) released the results of an investigation of an Indiana “penning” facility, uncovering extreme animal suffering and providing strong evidence that wild coyotes are being illegally confined and killed by hunting dogs. The findings of the investigation, which took place in 2012 at WCI Foxhound Training Preserve, near the town of Linton in southwestern Indiana, further suggest that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has turned a blind eye to this illegal conduct and instead encouraged penning in the state. Results are detailed in the new report, IndianaCoyote Penning—An Inside Look at Animal Abuse and Cruelty.

Penning, which is legal in at least 19 states, is the practice of using wild coyotes and foxes as “bait” to train hunting dogs. The wild canids are trapped (generally with leghold traps or snares) and often shipped and traded across state lines and sold to penning facilities. The animals are then released into pens and chased by hunting dogs—who often catch them and tear them apart. Despite advance notice given to WCI that an inspection would be occurring, the investigation being released today uncovered:

  • Foul odors leading to decomposing dog carcasses, one of which had a fractured femur.
  • A dog carcass that had been covered with a wooden pallet to conceal its presence.
  • The decomposing remains of a coyote who had sustained the traumatic loss of multiple digits to two of her four paws.
  • Decomposing remains and bones of coyotes and various other animals.

In May 2011, AWI, Project Coyote, and the ALDF filed suit against IDNR after the department waived state permit requirements for WCI for possession of wild animals, arguing that WCI didn’t really “possess” the animals because they could escape through alleged holes in the ill-kept fence. However, the WCI fence line was comprehensively inspected in the 2012 investigation and, despite IDNR’s repeated claims to the contrary, there were no holes or weaknesses that would provide exit routes for coyotes to escape the confines of the enclosure. Furthermore, investigations found that metal pipes described as safe havens for fleeing coyotes were sufficiently large for pursuing hounds to fit in the tubes from both ends. In December 2012, the animal advocates obtained a default ruling declaring that the possession of coyotes by WCI is indeed unlawful under Indiana law.

“Our investigation revealed a gruesome window into the world of penning and the fear and suffering it inflicts on foxes and coyotes,” says Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with AWI. “The animal graveyard that investigators uncovered shows penning for what it really is—a violent bloodsport that victimizes wildlife.”

“WCI’s history of illegal activities, uncovered by the investigation released today, is clear evidence that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources should be conducting regular investigations to ensure that wildlife is not being subjected to ongoing and criminal abuse,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF.

“We urge legislators in states that still allow penning to read this report in order to get an unvarnished picture of a typical penning operation, and to use the information uncovered in this investigation to protect wildlife and help put an end to this cruel ‘sport’ once and for all,” says Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote and wildlife consultant with AWI.

Download a copy of the report IndianaCoyote Penning—An Inside Look at Animal Abuse and Cruelty here. Watch a video about penning here.

Megan Backus (ALDF): 707-795-2533, x1010;
Tara Zuardo (AWI): 202-446-2148;
Camilla Fox (Project Coyote): 415-690-0338;


ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit

The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter forupdates and other important animal protection news.

Project Coyote ( is a national non-profit organization promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy.  Join our community on Facebook and Twitter.

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