Indiana to allow chase pens
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2010:
INDIANAPOLIS–The Indiana Natural Resources Commission on
November 16, 2010 voted 9-2 to issue an operating permit to the only
coyote and fox chase pen currently in the state, and to prohibit
others from starting after January 1, 2012–which leaves other
would-be Indiana chase pen proprietors a year to begin.
The ruling “was technically a preliminary approval that sets
in motion an extensive public comment period,” explained Dan McFeely
of the Indianapolis Star. “The final decision is expected within the
next year. State Representative Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) has already
heard from opponents and is planning to co-author a bill with
Representative David Cheatham (D-North Vernon) to outlaw the
“It’s barbaric, and nothing but a blood sport. We are going
to lobby hard against this,” Central Indiana Kennel Club legislative
liaison Jessie Burkhart told McFeely.
“This has evolved to take the place of dogfighting, to
satisfy these people who like blood sport,” charged Indiana Coyote
Rescue Center founder CeAnn Lambert.
Indiana Veterinary Medical Associ-ation past president Janet
Houghton, DVM, and 11 other Indiana veterinarians co-signed an open
letter to media opposing the Natural Resources Commission ruling.
The existing chase pen, at Linton in southern Indiana, is
reportedly owned by Indiana Beaglers Alliance president Jack Hyden.
The Indiana Beaglers Alliance claims about 200 members.
Laura Nirenberg, executive director of Wildlife Orphanage in
LaPorte, Indiana, told ANIMAL PEOPLE that she believes the
year-long opening for additional chase pens to start will attract
operators from other states where they are now banned or restricted.
Nirenberg sent ANIMAL PEOPLE a stack of documents she
obtained through open records requests to the Indiana Department of
Natural Resources which suggest that the department recommended that
the Natural Resources Commission should allow chase pens despite the
weight of evidence against them that was recognized by the department
“Running enclosures do not always provide for fair chase,”
an Indiana DNR internal report recognized on October 26, 2010. “The
incidence of various diseases and parasites between captive and wild
animals is increased within enclosures and poses a significant threat
both to the health of the wild animal population and to humans,” the
report continued. “The raccoon strain of rabies was transferred to
Mid-Atlantic States from a shipment of raccoons by private hunting
clubs; coyote-variant canine rabies was transferred to a Florida pen
The DNR report identified 10 other serious diseases which
also might be introduced by translocating coyotes and foxes to be
hunted in chase pens.
“Regardless of the regulations in place governing the chasing
of coyotes in enclosures,” the DNR report acknowledged, “there will
always be some illegal activities. In states where running/training
enclosures are permitted, law enforcement operations have found
illegal buying, selling and possessing of certain species of wild
animals, in addition to cruelty to animals, in running/training
The Indiana DNR in 2007 charged a chase pen supplier with
multiple counts of illegally shipping wildlife in connection with
Operation Foxote, a multi-state investigation initiated by the
Alabama Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division. Indiana
conservation officer John Salb told Associated Press at the time that
chase pen hunting could best be described as “prolonged agony” for
the victim animals.
Altogether, Operation Foxote brought the arrests of 18
people and the seizure of 55 foxes, 25 coyotes, two bobcats, and
33 cardinals who were apparently used as bait to catch foxes and
coyotes. The investigators also found and seized a moonshine still.
The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries on the
same day in 2007 conducted simultaneous surprise inspections of all
41 licensed “training preserves” in Virginia, closing 31 due to
alleged permit violations.
Continued the October 26, 2010 Indiana DNR report, “By
allowing running enclosures to obtain animals from the wild, these
wild-caught animals are then held in captivity by private individuals
and used for a commercial purpose, converting wild animals that are
the property of the people of Indiana to private use.”
But the Indiana DNR rationalized this by pointing out that
wildlife rehabilitators–like Lambert and Nirenberg–are also allowed
to keep formerly wild coyotes.
“The public perception of the DNR authorizing running
enclosures, which has never been done, could damage the public’s
view of trappers and hunters,” the DNR acknowledged. The DNR cited
nine Midwestern and Appalachian states that allow chase pens, but
several Southern states where chase pens were once common now ban
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission banned hounding foxes
and coyotes in fenced enclosures on September 1, 2010. The similar
practice of setting dogs on pigs in enclosures, also done in the
name of teaching dogs to hunt, called “hog/dog rodeo,” was outlawed
in Louisiana in 2004, and in Alabama and Mississippi in 2006.
“The Indiana DNR supports the concept of fair chase and has
taken a stand against canned hunting of captive cervids and other
species,” the DNR report said.
The DNR allows breeders to produce hooved stock for sale to
hunting ranches, but in 2005 then-DNR director Kyle Hupfer issued an
emergency rule prohibiting hunting of hooved animals behind fences.
The DNR defended the rule against legal challenges, and were
partially vindicated in 2009 by an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis
among captive-raised deer at sites in Franklin and Warren County,
and a shooting preserve in Harrison County.