Local News

Bill would make enclosed hunting illegal

Posted April 3, 2009 3:17 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2009 5:17 p.m. EDT

— A bill in the General Assembly could put a stop to penning, a form of hunting in which wild animals are kept in enclosed areas for the purpose of sport.

With penning, captured wildlife, such as foxes and coyotes, are typically released into large pens, called preserves, where hunters also release hounds to hunt the animals.

There are approximately 125 to 150 pens in the state, and although the form of hunting is regulated by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, supporters of Senate Bill 515, say the regulation is not enough.

Amanda Arrington, the state director of The Humane Society of the United States, says she has seen video of a gruesome kill when a pack of dogs corner the hunted animal. She believes the practice is cruel and unfair and should be outlawed.

"This is basically staged animal combat," she said. "This is a newer phenomenon, and this competition is, of itself, to judge these dogs, complete with trophies, prizes and how well the (dogs) can corner these animals and, often times, tear them apart."

"We try to do everything we can to prevent this from happening," said Pete Warren, president of the Eastern Fox Hunters Association and owner of a 750-acre pen that holds approximately 50 foxes and 15 coyotes. "But I'm not going to stand here and tell you it does not happen once in a while."

Warren says that although the dogs' handlers are not allowed inside the pen, there are monitors and judges inside that try to keep the animals from becoming too aggressive and the event from becoming violent.

The pens also have hiding places where the hunted animals can go to be safe, he said.

The 900-acre Tar River Fox Pen in Creedmoor, the largest in the state, had participants for a recent event from at least nine states and Canada. Up to 300 hounds competed.

"It's one of the few true family sports, I know of, left," Warren said. "When we have one of those events, we have mothers, fathers, grandparents, children."

A lobbyist for the North Carolina Sporting Dogs Association said there are as many as 10,000 members in the group, and that proceeds from the events are donated to various charities.

Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 515, says the hunting is not the same fox hunting that went on generations ago.

"I'm pro-hunting. I'm pro-gun, but this is absolutely barbaric," Hunt said. "It's a notch above dog-fighting. They say there are ways for the foxes and coyotes to escape, and that may be true, but ultimately, they're going to be caught."

"You might as well have a barrel and start shooting some fish," said Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake, who plans to introduce a version of the bill next week to the state House of Representatives. . "That can be a sport, too."

"Remove the fences. Make it a sport," he added. "Let's see how good ol' Rover is in chasing after the foxes in an open area."

Warren says growth in the state over the past few years has forced the need for pens because development has overtaken areas that used to be for hunting.