Lawsuit Filed Over "Penning" Facility in Which Hunting Dogs Are Set Loose on Captive Coyotes, Foxes

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Lawsuit Filed Over "Penning" Facility in Which Hunting Dogs Are Set Loose on Captive Coyotes, Foxes

[Ed. Note: There have been successes: Animal Rights Florida has confirmed that Coyote and Fox Penning have been banned in Florida.]

From Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
May 2011

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, Animal Welfare Institute sue the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as state debate rages over the practice of penning.

This lawsuit alleges that, if the Department’s grievous misinterpretation of the law were allowed to stand, anyone in the state of Indiana could skirt the wildlife possession permit requirement simply by failing to maintain the fencing within which they have enclosed an animal.

Indianapolis – The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) are filing a lawsuit today against the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its director Robert Carter Jr. over the Department’s decision to waive state permit requirements for a controversial Greene County “penning” facility. In penning operations, wild foxes and coyotes are trapped so that packs of hunting dogs can be set loose on them. The captive wildlife, unable to escape the caged enclosures, frequently suffer horrific deaths while being ripped to shreds during these “field trials.” Indiana residents and taxpayers who are deeply concerned about the cruel practice have joined the suit. The law offices of Lawrence Reuben are providing pro bono legal assistance.

Why are attorneys and activists howling mad about the bloody field trials happening at Linton, Indiana’s WCI Foxhound Training Preserve without a state-issued permit? After activists complained that the facility lacks a permit to “possess”—i.e., physically contain—wildlife outside of hunting season, as mandated by state law, the DNR asserted that the coyotes and foxes trapped in these cage enclosures are not technically “possessed” by the facility because there are small, unintentional perforations in their poorly-maintained wire fences. Today’s lawsuit alleges that, if the Department’s grievous misinterpretation of the law were allowed to stand, anyone in the state of Indiana could skirt the wildlife possession permit requirement simply by failing to maintain the fencing within which they have enclosed an animal. By removing the state’s wildlife permit requirement—intended to serve as a substantial disincentive to possessing wildlife—the Department’s conduct makes it more likely that humans and wildlife will be harmed or infected with communicable diseases.

This lawsuit comes just a week before the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (INRC) considers creating new rules that would sanction coyote and fox penning year-round, despite major public outcry against the practice. Recently, Florida permanently banned coyote and fox penning state-wide, and just last year, the Indiana DNR recommended that the INRC outlaw the practice. Meanwhile, wildlife experts contend that the practice of penning results in ethically indefensible animal cruelty, is ecologically reckless, and is counter to sound scientific wildlife management. “As a nation, we have banned dog and cock fighting because of their inherent cruelty,” said Camilla Fox, Executive Director of Project Coyote and Wildlife Consultant with AWI. “Like these other brutal blood-sports, coyote and fox penning is unacceptably cruel and should be relegated to America’s dark past.” Today, Project Coyote, ALDF, and AWI submitted a letter to the INRC—endorsed by more than 60 prominent scientists, biologists, veterinarians, and attorneys—calling on the INRC to reject the proposed rules and instead ban penning statewide.

Today’s lawsuit against the DNR, meanwhile, highlights the flaws in the current regulatory system, making a state-wide ban on the abusive practice of banning all the more urgent. “The Department of Natural Resources is vested with the responsibility of protecting Indiana’s wildlife,” says ALDF Director of Litigation Carter Dillard. “Instead, by ignoring the state’s permitting procedures, what they are doing is making it as easy as possible for this cruel operation to throw coyotes and foxes in a pen to be mauled to death.”