Huntington Resident Joins Fight Against 'Fox Penning'
On average, 1,000 foxes are trapped in pens each year in Virginia to be ripped apart by dogs for what some call "blood sport." Humane Dominion activists will host a peaceful protest Wednesday outside the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond.
For Huntington resident Reasa Currier, fighting for animal rights is a full-time job.
Currier founded Humane Dominion with a friend and launched the organization in October 2012. The group is deeply rooted in Christian principles, says Currier, because she feels compassion toward animals is part of group members' faith.
“Something more needed to be done too, especially in the Virginia General Assembly,” Currier said. “Currently, there are no advocacy groups representing all animals in Virginia [before the General Assembly], which is very surprising.”
Humane Dominion activists will join forces Wednesday with animal rights organizations, including the Humane Society and Richmond SPCA, to fight against the practice of fox penning. The groups will convene at the state Capital building in Richmond to host a peaceful demonstration to push legislators to pass a bill banning fox penning.
Fox penning occurs when trappers capture foxes (and sometimes coyotes) and transport them to pens where they are enclosed, chased by dogs, and killed for entertainment.
Fox penning is prevalent in rural portions of the commonwealth. According to Currier, there are 37 legally recognized fox pens in Virginia with an average size of 202 acres. During the 2011-2012 season, 950 foxes in the wild were trapped and used to restock existing pens, and over the last four years, the number of foxes added to these pens has averaged more than 1,000 per year.
Current regulations require only that there be escape structures "at the rate of at least one for every 20 acres of enclosures." Unfortunately, these escape structures do not allow the foxes to escape being torn apart from the packs of dogs that are released to chase them day after day, Currier said.
“We’ve worked with hunters who said [fox penning] is wrong,” Currier said. “We’ve heard from people who live near these fox pens and they say they’ve heard the most heart-wrenching cries from the foxes and coyotes. It’s affecting their ability to enjoy their property and keep their windows open at night.”
Legislation to phase out the practice failed last year. It's been reintroduced again this session.
If passed, SB 1280 will phase out fox penning, classifying it as a misdemeanor under some circumstances. Offenders will be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor for a first offense, Class 2 for a second offense and Class 1 for a third offense. The law will not pertain to anyone holding a permit before Jan. 1. No new permits will be issued and permits will not be transferable other than to a spouse.
The bill was introduced again by Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37th), who calls fox penning "state sanctioned cruelty to animals." Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, where the bill is being heard Jan. 24. He is supportive of SB1280 and wants to do his part to end fox penning in Virginia.
"Fox penning is an inhumane, cruel practice that doesn't give foxes a fighting chance when they're torn into shreds by dogs in the name of sport," Sen. Ebbin said.
However, it’s been an uphill battle for Humane Dominon to get the bill passed.
“Fox penners have a lobbyist and make a living through fox penning so they have money to throw around in General Assembly,” Currier explained. “We’re operating on a shoestring budget.”
“By Virginia statute, section 29.1-557 of the Code of Virginia, wildlife are a public resource and belong to the people of the commonwealth. In other words,” Currier said, “Alexandrians, in our urban environment, have just as much say in how these animals are treated as do the folks running these pens in rural parts of our state.”
More than 200 people are expected to attend the peaceful demonstration at the state capital on Wednesday.
Ebbin, who represents Belle Haven, as well as parts of Fort Hunt and Huntington, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit http://www.humanedominion.org/.