Ivor fox pen owner opposes bill outlawing them

Published 9:21 am Friday, January 27, 2012

IVOR—Robbie Felts’ hobby could go by the wayside if a proposed bill outlawing fox pens passes in the Virginia General Assembly.

Robbie Felts of Ivor stands behind a fox escape on his 175-acre fenced-in area he uses for training hunting dogs. -- Dale Liesch | Tidewater News

The Ivor man spends his spare time training his hunting dogs inside a 175-acre, fenced-in area, using foxes to lure the dogs.

“It’s just like a man who plays golf and spends his day in the country club,” said Felts, vice president of R.M. Felts Packing Co. “I like to spend my day listening to my dogs. It’s a hobby.”

Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, has introduced a bill to outlaw fox pens. The bill will go before subcommittees in the House and Senate next week. Marsden noted that 3,600 foxes have died in 41 pens over the last three years.

Felts said he has never seen a dog catch a fox, adding that escapes are available about every 10 acres. The law requires they be available every 20 acres.

“You feed these foxes and train them where the boxes are,” Felts said. “The foxes know where the boxes are.”

Felts, who built the pen in 2004, said fox pens are the best way to train hunting dogs because they need the scent of the animals to train, and running dogs outside of an enclosure is not permitted.

“You’ve got to have a place to exercise your dogs,” Felts said. “If it’s against the law to run them on the outside, then what are you going to do?”

If the bill passes, Felts believes complaints about dogs on private property and vehicle accidents involving dogs will increase because people will use private property to train their dogs.

A member of the Ivor Community Hunt Club, Felts built the pen to train his dogs for competition hunting. He also uses it for recreation with his 15 hunting dogs and to train dogs belonging to family and friends.