Nice work by Attorney General Mark Herring!
Richmond– Today the House Committee on Agriculture agreed to a compromise bill crafted by the office of Attorney General Mark R. Herring which will limit and eventually phase out fox-penning in Virginia, a practice in which wild foxes are trapped, confined, and hunted by dogs for purposes of training, or in some cases, sport, competition, and gambling. After years of legislative stalemate on the issue, the Office of the Attorney General, working on behalf of its client agencies, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Secretary of Natural Resources, developed amendments to SB42, sponsored by Senator Dave Marsden, which will address questions regarding the legality of current operations and enact a moratorium on any new facilities.
“This bill represents a reasonable compromise that helps brings this activity into legal compliance while phasing out what is too often an unnecessary and cruel practice,” said Attorney General Herring. “I appreciate the hard work and cooperation
by Sen. Marsden, my staff, and the many stakeholders who forged this compromise.”
“I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement that will begin to wind down the practice of fox penning in Virginia,” said Sen. Marsden. “I thank the staff from the Attorney General’s Office, the state agencies, and the advocacy organizations who helped make this happen and I hope it would be the pleasure of the full House of Delegates to support the compromise when it is before them.”
The bill establishes an annual statewide cap of 900 animals that can be confined in the state’s 36 operating pens. Facilities will be allowed a limited number of animals according to their size, but as facilities close, their allotment will be removed from the statewide cap. No new facilities will be permitted and facilities currently in operation can operate for a maximum of 40 more years.
Fox penning requires the capture and transfer of a wild animal from a trapper to a facility operator. Because it is illegal to sell a wild animal, the practice has raised concerns about the possibility of illegal wildlife transfers. The practice also has been known to deviate from training of hunting dogs to include gambling and competitions to see whose dog can catch the confined fox.
The bill does not limit the training of hunting dogs or the hunting of foxes outside of an enclosure, or the killing of a fox or coyote that is damaging domestic animals on leased or owned land.
The compromise bill is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Governor’s Office. After passing committee with bipartisan support, it will now go to the full House of Delegates for consideration, and if passed, the amendments will be considered by the Senate where their adoption is expected.