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VA existing fox pens grandfathered

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 3:08 am
by Emily
from the NY Times ... 75882&_r=1

legislative compromise allows 40-year grandfathering of existing VA fos and yote pens

Virginia Law Phasing Out ‘Fox Pens’ Vexes All Sides


Raymond Reynolds watching his dogs take off after being released at the Stony Creek Foxhound Training Preserve in southern Virginia earlier this month. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times
Continue reading the main story

STONY CREEK, Va. — Emerson Poarch Jr., 72, says his father went to his grave incredulous that hunters would pay a fee to run their hounds in a “fox pen.”

The fox hunting tradition Emerson Sr. observed as a Virginia farmer was not so different from that known by George Washington, who on horseback joined his hounds in pursuit of foxes through the countryside near his Mount Vernon estate.

Eventually, rural turned suburban, and homeowners complained about dogs’ trespassing. Roadways replaced forests, resulting in more dogs being struck by vehicles. And now one kind of fox hunting has become a cultural flash point in a state where many feel that rural traditions are under assault and where animal rights sentiments carry more weight than they ever did in the past.

At issue are foxhound training preserves, as they are officially called, which were established as part of an earlier effort to keep the peace. Inside fenced enclosures averaging 200 acres, hounds pursue wild foxes. Sometimes, as might be expected, the hounds catch and kill the foxes, and that is the latest problem.
A dog ran through the preserve. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

A new Virginia law passed in March will phase out fox pens over 40 years and toughen regulations in the meantime. Hunters say that the legislation unfairly takes aim at a traditional and honorable outdoor activity, and that their goal is training dogs, not killing.

“It’s nothing that hasn’t been going on since colonial times,” Mr. Poarch said. “I just don’t see why the people won’t let us alone. Last time I heard, it was a free country.”

However, some animal rights organizations want changes now, and some vow to shut down the fox pens sooner than the law requires, possibly through the courts. They are targeting other states, as well.

“It’s a gentrified version of dog fighting, and it cannot be done humanely,” said Carter Dillard, director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, who added that “helpless animals are still likely to be mauled in the state of Virginia.”

Mr. Poarch, along with his father and uncle, borrowed $50,000 to construct the pen in 1987 and erected four miles of chain-link fencing. It was one of the first in Virginia. He plans to pass it down his oldest son, who he says cannot work regularly because of medical problems.

“His family needs the money, bad,” said Mr. Poarch, who built the pen after losing his job when Brown & Williamson Tobacco left nearby Petersburg.
Emerson Poarch Jr. held a photo of one of his father's favorite foxes. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

The 283-acre Stony Creek Foxhound Training Preserve generates $10,000 in annual revenue, he said.

Virginia’s pens must be at least 100 acres. Over all, there are more than 600 enclosures in almost 20 states. Nearly 60 percent are in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. An effort to ban the practice in North Carolina, which has over 130 pens, failed in 2009. Florida prohibited them in 2010.

The Virginia legislation was a compromise hammered out by lawmakers, pen operators, the state attorney general’s office and the Humane Society of the United States. It outlaws future fox or coyote enclosures, but grandfathered existing fox pens for the next four decades.

Past efforts to close pens failed, but opponents gained leverage in November when voters elected Democrats to the offices of governor and attorney general. They supported the bill, unlike their immediate predecessors, both of whom were Republicans.

Senator David Marsden, a Northern Virginia Democrat who wrote the measure, said pen owners conceded that the new administration could shut them down.

“They finally decided that the better plan was to take the deal of 40 years,” said Mr. Marsden, who described hunting in an enclosure as “kind of creepy.”
Mr. Poarch, 72, says his father went to his grave incredulous that hunters would pay a fee to run their hounds in a “fox pen.” Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia recently signed the bill into law, but the legislation did not entirely please either side.

“We don’t consider the legislation the end of the story there, at all,” said Mr. Dillard of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The fund, a California-based nonprofit, won a default judgment in 2012 against an Indiana enclosure that illegally allowed dogs to chase coyotes. Mr. Dillard said a Virginia lawsuit was likely, but it could take years to gather evidence against a particular facility.

Virginia’s 36 enclosures drew more than 10,000 visitors last year, state wildlife officials estimate. Most pens charge about $5 per hound, more during “field trials,” during which judges score hounds for their pursuit skills.

Escape hatches for the foxes are mandatory. Mr. Poarch has laid plastic plumbing pipes, seven to eight inches in diameter, on the ground. Dogs cannot fit into them and give up when a fox shelters there, he said.

“I’m not going to try to joke you. If something didn’t happen to them every once in a while, you wouldn’t have to keep putting them in here,” said Mr. Poarch, who usually adds about 20 foxes each year. He estimated there were 60 foxes in the pen.

“It’s not about catching a piece of game,” said Kevin Weston, 24, who recently brought hounds to Stony Creek. “It’s about having fun. It’s like playing baseball or football.”
Kevin Weston put tracking collars on each of his American foxhounds before releasing them in a fox preserve in early April. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

Just before twilight one recent evening, Mr. Weston rolled up to Stony Creek in his GMC pickup truck. A metal “dog box” in the bed held his hounds, who wore Garmin tracking collars.

When he and his friend Raymond Reynolds, 57, opened their dog boxes, more than a dozen hounds jumped out and charged into the brush. Fifty yards in, the pack ran past two foxes, who trotted away after the hounds missed them.

Within 15 minutes, the howling pack was back and in pursuit of a fox. As darkness fell, the men drove to a pavilion farther into the pen for a few hours of listening to their hounds.

“It’s like hearing somebody sing,” Mr. Reynolds said.

Hunting in enclosures is a second cousin to the tonier, English-style mounted fox hunts. Horses and champagne are replaced by pickup trucks and cold beer.

Field trials include barbecues and attract families and people of all ages, said Robert Duncan, executive director of the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He said the state’s transition from an agrarian society as well as an influx of people from places without a culture of hunting had led to the disputes.

Hunters are digging in for a long fight.

“They’re not going to stop with just pens,” said James H. Massie of Madison Heights, Va., a retired lawyer and longtime raccoon hunter. “They’re going after any kind of hound hunting.”

Re: VA existing fox pens grandfathered

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:03 am
by Jkohnke
The last statement in this read says it all. The animal rights activist won't stop until its all shut down. Now more than ever If your state doesn't have a hunting dog association you better get one formed. Lawmakers look at numbers and votes. We have the ms hunting dog association here in ms wich stands for all hound hunters from rabbit to deer hunting. We have a huge membership and active leaders who stay on top of legislative issues and keep us informed. Our association and the strong membership has defeated some of these same issues. Better stick together. If your a coon hunter and you see a rabbit hunters ways under attack you better saddle up and help him fight cause they coming for you next.

Re: VA existing fox pens grandfathered

Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:01 pm
by Emily
Forming the association is a good start, but not everything. In VA, they have the Virginia Hunting Dog Association with something like 70,000 members (lots of deer dogs). This happened anyway.