State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) received a standing ovation for his efforts against the practice of fox-penning in Virginia. After receiving the Legislator of the Year award from the Humane Society of the United States, Marsden talked about fox-penning and answered questions from a group of animal welfare advocates at the Burke Centre Library on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
Photo by Victoria Ross.
“This is not hunting, this is not sporting, and this is not the Virginia way. It’s state-sanctioned cruelty to animals.”
—State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37)
State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) received the Legislator of the Year Award from the Humane Society of the United States Tuesday, Dec. 4, for his ongoing efforts against what many call the cruel practice of fox penning in Virginia.
The practice, also called foxhound training, involves trapping wild foxes, placing them in wooded preserves, and allowing hundreds of dogs to pursue them until they are caught and torn apart, or they escape into trees.
Like Marsden, most opponents want fox penning banned or phased out over time.
“Sometimes, when I research an issue, it turns out not to be as bad as I thought,” Marsden said before a group of about 100 animal advocates at the Burke Centre Library Tuesday evening. “But in the case of fox penning, it’s actually more grim than I thought.”
Marsden, who patroned a bill that would make fox penning a Class 1 misdemeanor that is punishable with up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine, said foxes are purchased and placed into fenced enclosures ranging from 100 to 900 acres. Competitions are held between dog owners as the dogs track the foxes.
“This is not hunting, this is not sporting, and this is not the Virginia way. It’s state-sanctioned cruelty to animals,” Marsden said. “Some people will tell you that fox pens provide a safe training for dogs, and that the foxes are hardly ever harmed. In reality, more than 3,600 foxes died in these pens over the last three years, and it wasn’t from old age.”
Most pens are in rural parts of central and Southside Virginia. In the past four years, according to animal welfare advocates, nearly 5,000 foxes were trapped and placed in 41 pens.
The game board oversees the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which regulates hunting, fishing, boating and other activities.
“The deal I’ve offered is to limit [the] number of dogs per acre, limit the number of foxes, and if and when the owner of the fox pen, who holds the permit, goes out of business, that ends the permit,” Marsden said.