The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has decided to take a closer look at a controversial hunting practice in Virginia.
Fox penning involves capturing wild foxes, putting them into an enclosure, and then having them hunted by dogs.
"It is a form of animal fighting," says Robin Starr, the CEO of the Richmond SPCA.
However, supporters of fox penning say it's a safe place to hunt.
"These preserves are there as a service to sportsmen," says Kirby Burch, the chairman of The Commonwealth's Sportsmen's Alliance.
"It gives the dogs a safe place to run, so they're not in the line of fire of vehicles, they're not running into other people's property," says Jennifer Hackett, the secretary with the Fox/Hound Training Preserve.
Opponents proposed a moratorium or temporary ban on fox penning until the issue could be looked at further. They say the practice is bloody, barbaric and fenced in game is no sport.
"The fact that these animals are trapped, they are fenced, they can't escape and they essentially run for their lives until one day they get caught and are torn apart by dogs," said Laura Donahue with the Humane Society of the United States.
Supporters say people are misinformed. They say the enclosure is not a pen, but a fox preservation. They added that the state has strict regulations, including at least 100 acres for the foxes which includes places to hide. The business is also subject to random inspections by conservation officers.
"It brings people into the counties and therefore these hunters are spending their money in the local gas stations, the hotels if they have to sleep over, [and] the restaurants," said Hackett.
Game and Inland Fisheries voted for a motion that will dedicate staff to investigate the issue. It's likely to be an issue for the upcoming General Assembly session as well.
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