Coyote and fox penning: Tell Indiana NO!

Post updated 9/7/13; originally posted 5/12/11

As far as a sense of humor goes, I have a pretty good one, or so I’m told. I keep thinking I’ll find a way to inject some hard-to-come-by laughs into my animal rights writing–perhaps a take-off on “Chicken Soup for the Vegan Soul” or something silly like that. Wouldn’t it be nice to yuk it up for a change? But I never quite get around to it; the frivolity is always supplanted by the horror du jour. On today’s menu: the penning of foxes and coyotes.

What kind of human garbage throws a frightened, disoriented coyote into a fenced enclosure and then turns the dogs loose to chase and shred the hapless creature? Sure, you know the answer: the kind for whom decency, compassion, and any sense of justice have entirely gone missing. Perhaps an unfortunate subspecies–let’s call them Homo sapiens vulgaris.

The bloodsport of penning is on this native Hoosier’s radar because the state of Indiana “…is currently considering proposed rules to legalize the practice–even after its own Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommended the practice be banned,” according to the Huffington Post. And why the about-face? It’s the “…direct result of pressure from the NRA and pro-penning organizations,” says Project Coyote.

Like so many animal abuse endeavors, it comes down to money and ego. Pen operators charge a fee for dog owners to release their domestic, predator-hunting canines into an enclosure where trapped coyotes or foxes await their fate. Part training, part entertainment, part competition, the wild animals are chased to exhaustion, injured, often ripped apart (video here). “It’s simply for the pleasure of the hunter to have his hounds do well,” said one Alabama state agent in late 2007, after a two-year investigation shut down a penning operation there. Seized in just this one illicit operation were 55 foxes, 25 coyotes, two bobcats, “…33 cardinals that were apparently used as bait,” and one moonshine still (cue Dueling Banjos).

Project Coyote

The brutality extends well beyond the penning operation itself; those wild foxes and coyotes came from someplace, and that someplace most likely involved a foothold trap. Terrified trapped animals are then transported in miserable conditions–cramped cages, little or no food and water, no medical attention–to penning operators often hundreds of miles away. Indiana’s proposed rule stipulates that only animals trapped in the wild in Indiana be subjected to this treatment. Now that’s what I call Hoosier Hospitality!

Florida citizens said no and shut down penning in their state. But the practice remains in well over a dozen states in the Southeast and Midwest. Will Indiana join their sorry ranks? In a Mason-Dixon poll conducted last December (2010), Indiana citizens decisively supported a prohibition of penning–85% to 9%. And a bill is pending in the Indiana General Assembly to prohibit penning (but apparently not enacted by the governor).

Here’s where we come in. The Indiana Natural Resources Commission is accepting comments (this has expired) and accepts them from nonresidents as well as state residents. Use this Project Coyote Action Alert to formulate a short comment to the INRC (it need not be a lengthy, researched tome–just make a valid point or two). This alert page also provides the link to submit your comment to the commission.

Coyote and fox penning has been compared to dog and cockfighting–bloodsports so cruel and abusive to the exploited participants (and so dehumanizing to the species perpetrating them) that they are illegal. Let’s get behind Project Coyote’s call to also make penning illegal in all 50 states. Convincing the Hoosier state to respect its citizens’ wishes and take a stand against gratuitous cruelty is the immediate next step.

UPDATE, September 2013: Indiana Coyote Penning Investigation Uncovers Brutal Practices and Illegal Activity – click here to access report
Previous update: Animal Welfare Institute
To contact Indiana’s governor, click here.

Comment on this post at animal law blog Animal Blawg.

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