21 Aug 2014
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Marsden Hopes to Stop 'State Sanctioned Cruelty to Animals' with Legislation

On average, 1,000 foxes are trapped in pens each year in Virginia to be ripped apart by dogs for what some call "blood sport." Activists will host a peaceful protest Wednesday outside the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond.

Marsden Hopes to Stop 'State Sanctioned Cruelty to Animals' with Legislation Marsden Hopes to Stop 'State Sanctioned Cruelty to Animals' with Legislation

State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37th) is taking another swing at phasing out the practice of fox penning, which he has called state sanctioned animal cruelty.

Fox penning occurs when trappers capture foxes (and sometimes coyotes) and transport them to pens where they are enclosed, chased by dogs, and killed for entertainment.  

He's getting some support for his bill Wednesday from Humane Dominion activists, who will join forces with other animal rights organizations, including the Humane Society and Richmond SPCA, to fight against fox penning. The groups will convene at the state Capital building in Richmond to host a peaceful demonstration. 

Fox penning is prevalent in rural portions of the commonwealth. According to reports, there are 37 legally recognized fox pens in Virginia with an average size of 202 acres. During the 2011-2012 season, 950 foxes in the wild were trapped and used to restock existing pens, and over the last four years, the number of foxes added to these pens has averaged more than 1,000 per year. 

Legislation to phase out the practice failed last year. Marsden reintroduced it again this session.

If passed,  SB 1280 will phase out fox penning, classifying it as a misdemeanor under some circumstances. Offenders will be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor for a first offense, Class 2 for a second offense and Class 1 for a third offense. The law will not pertain to anyone holding a permit before Jan. 1. No new permits will be issued and permits will not be transferable other than to a spouse.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing about the bill Jan. 24. 

"Fox penning is an inhumane, cruel practice that doesn't give foxes a fighting chance when they're torn into shreds by dogs in the name of sport," said Sen. Adam Ebbin, a committee member from Alexandria who supports the bill. 

However, it’s been an uphill battle for supporters to get the bill passed.

“Fox penners have a lobbyist and make a living through fox penning so they have money to throw around in General Assembly,” Currier explained. “We’re operating on a shoestring budget.”

“By Virginia statute, section 29.1-557 of the Code of Virginia, wildlife are a public resource and belong to the people of the commonwealth. In other words,” Currier said, “Alexandrians, in our urban environment, have just as much say in how these animals are treated as do the folks running these pens in rural parts of our state.”

More than 200 people are expected to attend the peaceful demonstration at the state capital on Wednesday.

You can send your thoughts about the practice to Marsden at:  district37@senate.virginia.gov

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