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

Posted on May 10, 2011

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, Animal Welfare Institute Sue the Department of Natural Resources as State Debate Rages over the Practice of Penning

For immediate release

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund    
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote and Animal Welfare Institute

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.”

15 thoughts on “Lawsuit Filed Over “Penning” Facility in Which Hunting Dogs Are Set Loose on Captive Coyotes, Foxes

  1. Heidi Leever says:

    I am ashamed to be human.

  2. Diane T. says:

    I am with you, I too feel shame very often when reading and viewing the crimes we commit in the name of fun, food, fashion or greed!
    Humans have no empathy for these poor creatures who also share this Earth.

  3. Victoria says:

    This practice is an outrage. Why on earth do people get any pleasure at all out of this torture of an animal. Is there anyone we can e-mail to try to put an end to this atrocity?

  4. The Indiana Dept of Natural Resources as well as Mr Carter have set a national example of how to use a state government as a vehicle in permitting certain cowardly Indiana citizens who continue this cruel practice.

    It needs to stop.

  5. Melanie Hunt says:

    I am a resident of Southern Indiana, and have spoken with many friends about this case, because of its excessively cruel nature. (The unaninously condemned practice of dog fighting almost pales compared to this.) Everyone has the same response: horror and outrage. You have a vast base of moral support in Indiana. If you wish to initiate a cultural change of heart in this poor and isolated farm region, I suggest that the Indiana DNR be required to fund regular educational presentations in Greene County schools on the values and benefits to society of the natural world and wild animals, and on animal intelligence and latest findings on the ability of animals to suffer pain – over the course of, optimistically, a generation.

  6. J.Coleman says:

    This is something right out of the Dark Ages How can anyway call this anything except a blood sport.The People why do this are Barbarians and need to be locked away for this Crime, and I can think of no other word for it but a Crime Politicans will do anything for Money. I see by this video there is nothing safe from these people who call themself Goverment to allow this anywhere is WRONG !!!!! in every sense of the word the State should be ashamed of themselfs for even considering a Permit for this any time of the year, is there no level that humans will not stoop to to? after seeing this I have giving up hope the little hope I had in the Human race, that we could get better it seems we have no limit we will not go to distroy the world in which we live in.when mans time finaly comes maybe we deserve it.

  7. Antonia Siebert says:

    It’s not exactly clear to me the point of this activity. It is described as ‘field trials’. Trials for what? The dogs? Are they being trained in some fashion? Or is it just a spectator event, like dog fighting or cock fighting? I certainly don’t condone or support this activity, I think it’s absolutely horrible, but there is something missing from the information as presented. Who owns the dogs? Who captures the coyotes / wolves? does money change hands – do the dog owners pay the pen operator so their dogs can get their ‘field trials’? There is not enough information here.

  8. John Melia says:

    Thank you, Antonia, for your continued interest in the case. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up the questions you raised about what field trials are and how they’re organized.

    A field trial is a competition where hunting dogs are evaluated on their ability to hunt prey animals in an enclosed area. While the field trials at WCI typically involve coyotes, other organizations put on field trials chasing animals such as squirrels and rabbits as well. It is not a spectator event per se (organizers allege that only the dogs, the prey, and the judges are allowed in the pen while field trials are being held), but it is competitive, and awards are given out depending on the dogs’ performance.

    Field trials also serve the purpose of training hunting dogs to hunt in an environment where prey animals are more concentrated and confined to the penned-in area. When field trials are not occurring, WCI and other pens allow dog owners to “run” their dogs in the pen, which allows the dogs to hunt in a less formal, less competitive setting than the organized field trials.

    Dog-owners must pay an entry fee to participate in field trials, and to run their dogs on off-days.

    My understanding is that while WCI owns some of the dogs used in these trials, hunting dog owners from around the region bring their dogs there to participate in the trials. We also understand that WCI purchases its prey animals from trappers in the area.

    The brutality of penning and field trails is covered well in the above text and video, but I hope this comment clears up some of the mechanics of the events. Let me know if you have any more questions.

  9. Reb says:

    Obviously this is wrong. If I lived in Indiana I would be spending a lot of time on the courthouse steps with pictures and a petition to put the issue on the ballot. There is no way it would not be voted in. Most people have more compassion and common sense than the vile and ignorant excuses for humans that commit these kind of atrocities.

  10. Melanie Hunt says:

    I have been checking in regularly over the past 1 1/2 years to see whether any progress has been made on this case. (I am from Southern Indiana, so I have a personal interest in it.) Can ALDF give me a status update? Thank you!

  11. Samantha S says:

    I live in Indiana and this is just down right awful. I am not a fan of coyotes and foxes but having them mauled to death is just horrifying. I am very disappointed in my state for letting this happen. And it needs to be stopped NOW!

  12. Carmine Aquilino says:

    This is a perfect example where the people are the real animals.

  13. Queenie says:

    There is no shame in being human. There is GREAT SHAME in being a heartless bureaucrat with only political aspirations and money as a goal. It should go without saying that wild animals should not be penned for “sport” and people who do such things are lower than the animals. They have no consciences and are hardhearted. Their reward is that they will probably die alone with no one to even care that they ever lived.

    “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” Proverbs 12:10

  14. Marilyn Sommers says:

    You are being paid with tax dollars to protect our wildlife and our environment and you have not yet eliminated “penning” – how can an incredibly atrocious practice such as this still be happening – why are you still in office – is Indiana that inept in removing employees who not only should be removed, but receive a severe consequence for aiding and abetting this horrendous practice – “what goes around, comes around” – and in your case, by not having stopped this cruel, unspeakable practice, I hope one day you realize how your inaction was so very wrong – Mr. Carter, you are nothing but “dead wood” do Indiana a favor and step down!

  15. Hannah says:

    This is awful. I am ,too, ashamed to be a human being.The government takes much more seriously the killing of humans. I believe we humans are NOT above any animal and definitely NOT more important than animals.

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