Update June 28, 2010: Saying it’s not a fair chase, the Florida Fish and Wildlife ConservationÂ Commission (FWC) has voted unanimously to prohibit the practice of training hunting dogs by placing them in enclosures with foxes and coyotes.Â
The practice called live bait dog training has been under scrutiny since investigations revealed the current permitting process simply hasn’t worked to stop the brutality to foxes and coyotes.
The Commission will issue a regulation prohibiting the practice later this year. There has beenÂ in place an order stopping the practice pending review.Â
For more on this including current regulations, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.
Update Feb. 20, 2010: After listening to a debate about live bait dog training, during a public hearing on Feb. 17-18, the FWC issued a decision to draft regulations governing this practice ofÂ encouraging dogs to tear apart fox and coyote trapped in pens or running enclosures.
In the meantime the chasing of foxes and coyotes in enclosures will be prohibited.Â An executive order prohibiting chasing of foxes and coyotes within an enclosure will be issued by Feb. 24.
Before making the decision, Commissioners listened to more than 40 speakers on fox and coyote pens, beginning with Rep. Debbie Boyd, D-High Springs. Boyd urged the Commission to recognize the shortcomings on both sides of the issue, to address those shortcomings and engage stakeholders in the process.
"This issue has been painted with a broad brush," Boyd said. "I ask the Commission to engage stakeholders and put fox and coyote enclosures into rule rather than through the permit process."
FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto said he leaned toward an outright ban of the practice but also felt the process should be given a chance for review.
"I’m not sure I’ll support the draft rules when they come back," Barreto said. "I don’t see any sport in the animals’ having no escape. I personally don’t agree with the practice."
Last September, FWC commissioners directed the agency’s law enforcement staff to explore the history behind the enclosures, including a review of the agency’s permitting process and the number of such enclosures in the state. Then-Executive Director Ken Haddad issued an executive order, putting a moratorium on issuing permits for chasing foxes or coyotes in enclosures.
During Wednesday’s meeting at Apalachicola, commissioners received the report, indicating such enclosures have been around since 1988, when the agency began meeting with stakeholders to draw up regulations for permitting them. Previously, fox hunting took place on large land tracts, but fewer tracts were available as Florida’s human population grew.
Enclosure operators also began using more-readily available coyotes captured within Florida. Importing coyotes from other states is illegal.
It is not legal to kill foxes in Florida, but chasing them with dogs has been a long-standing tradition.
"This is not a referendum on hunting; we are a pro-hunting commission," said Commissioner Brian Yablonski. "But we must consider the concept of ‘fair chase,’ and I am not sure chasing coyotes and foxes in an enclosure meets that standard of hunting – a standard that is important to preserving hunting in the future."
The Commission asked staff to hold workshops and meet with stakeholders to develop draft rules. The draft rules will be brought back for consideration at the June meeting, with the possibility of final rule approval in September.
More on Florida’s live bait dog training practices
In 2007, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources completed an investigation into fox pens in that state, and shared information with the FWC, indicating illegal importation, sale and delivery of foxes or coyotes was taking place among Alabama and six other states.
As the result of an undercover investigation last year FWC found widespread violations of its permitting process that is supposed to regulate this bloodsport. There were a number of illegal enclosures. FWC arrested twelve people and issued 46 citations for violations of regulations. 12 enclosures were investigated and eight were found to be involved in illegal activities. One of those arrested, Edgar R. Bryan (DOB 10/23/35), has a previous conviction for first degree murder and is currently on parole.
Since this investigation FWC reports there has been a moratorium on permits that would allow this terrible cruelty. Of course, that doesn’t stop people like Bryan and his cohorts from operating illegally, in flagrant disregard of Florida’s permitting process.
Sometimes this horrific practice is billed as training for hunting dogs. In Florida, it is a bloodsport where hunting dogs, hyped up on steroids and vitamin B-12, are turned loose in an enclosure to "hunt" the fox or coyote. Their feet may be soaked in formaldehyde and other chemicals so they don’t feel pain and can "hunt" longer. Â Â Hunters pay a fee to turn their dogs loose in these enclosures to corner and kill these animals. There can be dozens or hundreds of dogs involved. Dogs that don’t perform well might be killed. Remember how Michael Vick hanged, beat, strangled, drowned and tortured his dogs used in dog fights? Same thing here. Â
The coyotes and fox are trapped, purchased from dealers, sometimes smuggled or transported from other states, and taken to the enclosure usually without food and water and sometimes injured from the traps and the journey. Some arrive dead, but they are easily replaced inventory, so no worries. The live foxes or coyotes are basically left without food and water till they are ripped apart by the dogs. Â Â
These "hunts" are competitions. Participants and spectators place bets, prizes may be awarded, and it is not uncommon for children to be present.
CURRENT FLORIDA FWC REGULATIONS
Permits are required for taking or possessing wildlife. Coyotes cannot be imported into the state, and importing a fox that will be kept in an enclosure requires a permit. FAC Â§Â§68A-9.002, 68A-6.0011(1), 68A-24.002(2)(a), (c); 68A-6.001, .002 Â Foxes also cannot be possessed or killed without a permit. Â FAC Â§68A-24.002(2)(c )Â Â It is illegal "for any person to buy, sell, or transfer any wildlife to or from an unpermitted entity within Florida". Records must be made and kept to document any sale or transfer of wildlife. FAC Â§68A-6.0023(7)