FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 10, 2010
Crucial Vote on June 23rd
Lake Mary, Florida — Project Coyote and the Animal Welfare Institute, (AWI) along with more than 60 prominent scientists, wildlife biologists, veterinarians, ethicists, and attorneys, have called on the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to abolish “penning” — the use of dogs to chase, maim and kill coyotes and foxes in confined areas — at its upcoming public meeting on June 23, 2010 near Orlando.
Signatories to the sign-on letter, including internationally prominent scientists Dr. Michael Soulé and Dr. Reed Noss and ethicists Dr. Holmes Rolston, III and Dr. Dale Jamieson said, “We believe that the FWC needs to take a firm stand in banning this practice altogether. If the proposed rule (to regulate pens) is approved, the FWC will be legalizing a practice that runs counter to fundamental concepts of wildlife management and violates the principle of fair chase.” Penned wild canids are harassed relentlessly and often killed by being torn apart by the dog pack.
“Americans recognize that dog fighting and cock fighting are unacceptably cruel; all states have banned these heinous practices,” said Camilla Fox, Founding Director of Project Coyote and Wildlife Consultant for the AWI. “Similarly, coyote and fox penning is unconscionable and unsporting and should be banned nationwide,” Fox said. “Moreover the trade in coyotes and foxes is ecologically reckless, causing the transmission of diseases such as rabies.”
A FWC investigation last year of penning operations led to the arrest of 12 people and the issuance of 46 citations for various violations related to the illicit trade in live foxes and coyotes for penning purposes. The Commission tasked its staff with devising a new “rule” to regulate Florida pens in the future. However, the staff, after holding public meetings and hearing strong opposition to the pen operations from across the state, decided to give the Commissioners three choices at their June 23rd meeting: regulate the pen operations; ban them immediately; or phase them out over two years.
Wildlife agencies in several other states have serious concerns about penning, including disease transmission. In 2008, the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies passed a resolution urging the adoption of state-by-state regulations prohibiting the importation or interstate movement of foxes and coyotes for the purpose of stocking coursing pens or for release and pursuit by hounds outside of coursing pens. “If the FWC chooses the option of regulating the cruel practice of coyote and fox penning, the Commission will be saddling its staff with enforcing a practice that is ultimately unenforceable as demonstrated by past arrests and citations of pen operators,” states Becky Pomponio, Project Coyote’s Florida Representative, who will testify at the June 23rd hearing on behalf of Project Coyote and AWI. “Cruelty can occur when no one is looking. But for Florida, the blinders are off,” Pomponio adds. “No one can say we don’t know what is going on in these enclosures. It is time for the Commission to end coyote and fox penning.”
Current Florida law prohibits the importation of coyotes into the state. However, a permit can be issued for coyotes to be trapped in Florida and relocated to penning facilities. The law allows vaccinated foxes to be imported across state lines with a valid permit from rabies-free states to “penning” facilities where they are then used to “train” hunting dogs in “running pens.” The trapping of foxes for this purpose in Florida is prohibited because of rabies transmission concerns.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is accepting public comments on the issue until June 23rd. Hearing details:
Date: June 23, 2010
Time: 8:30am EST
Place: Orlando Marriott-Lake Mary at 1501 International Parkway, Lake Mary, Florida, 32746.
Project Coyote is a national non-profit charitable organization that fosters educated coexistence between people and coyotes and advocates on behalf of all native carnivores. For information, visit: www.ProjectCoyote.org
The Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. More information: www.awionline.org