VA Lawmakers Fuss Over Fox Penning

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Some call it a sport and others call it animal cruelty, now some state lawmakers want Virginia to ban a practice called fox penning.

It's supposed to be a training mechanism for hunting dogs but Virginia's chapter of the Humane Society of the United States says it has gotten out of hand, and needs to stop.  Now, fox penning has caught lawmakers' attention.

Video provided by the Humane Society, shows a pack of dogs attacking and killing a wild fox.  It's called fox penning, where foxes are trapped so bloodhounds can learn how to hunt them.

37th District State Senator Dave Marsden (D) stated, "We need these pens banned."

Marsden says it started out as a training tool that got way out of hand.  "It's not just about training hounds anymore," he said.  "This is what the hounds do.  They have competitions to determine, and you can declare a champion."

State law already prohibits the practice of killing foxes in an enclosed space.  Trapped foxes must be kept in sanitary conditions with water and food, and injured foxes must be treated or euthanized.  But with apparently little regulation.

Marsden and Delegate Ken Plum have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to ban the practice all together.

Laura Donahue with the Humane Society said, "This is not just an issue for the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA or the individual supporters, this goes against the grain of all our Virginia values and ethics, and it must be stopped."

The Humane Society says 3,600 foxes have died in pens across Virginia in the last three years.  Marsden says that's not because of old age.  Dogs are killing them - and not for training, but for sport.

"The dogs all have numbers on them, and they're judged by their performance and what my concern is they're being judged on who gets to the fox and is able to kill it," said Marsden.

Those bills are still awaiting committee hearings - one in the House and one in the Senate.  Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says right now conservation police officers are required to inspect these pens, but they weren't able to say how often that happens.