Bill outlawing fox pens headed to committee

Published 9:00 am Friday, January 20, 2012

RICHMOND—A bill introduced in the General Assembly looks to outlaw the practice of training hunting dogs by allowing them to chase foxes and coyotes within fenced-in areas.

Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, introduced the Senate version of the bill aimed to stop what he calls a “cruel practice,” noting that 3,600 foxes died in 41 pens over the last three years.

“The issue is dogs are killing these creatures,” Marsden said. “It’s like Muhammad Ali training on sixth-graders. There are other methods to train dogs.”

Penned-in areas are normally 100 to 900 acres. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries requires an escape route for fox every 20 acres.

The bill will be presented to the Senate’s Agriculture Committee on either Thursday, Jan. 26, or the following week.

Sen. Harry Blevins, who represents portions of Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, said his office fielded at least 40 calls on the issue on Jan. 13.

A Republican from Chesapeake, Blevins said the issue comes down to hunters versus animal activists.

“Right now I’ve gotten more calls opposing this bill, but others will not be laying to sleep,” Blevins said. “I know there are a lot of hunters in my district and I will listen.”

Blevins would not say how he will vote until he gets input from both sides.

The fox pens began to spring up in the 1980s and were permitted by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said David Wesolowski, a legislative aide for Marsden.