With nearly 300 opponents of the measure in attendance, a House of Delegates subcommittee defeated a bill Tuesday that would have restricted the practice of "fox penning."
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, would have outlawed competitive events where hundreds of dogs are let loose in minimum 100-acre enclosed "fox preserves" to hunt down foxes. The bill passed the Senate last month.
The measure would have let the 37 facilities that exist statewide continue to use the enclosures to train dogs to hunt foxes. Only 17 of those are used to stage competitions.
"Wild animals taken for fur, for food or other byproducts is an acceptable part of wildlife management," Marsden said. "But capturing wild animals, placing them in pens and chasing them with dogs for our entertainment is not part of Virginia's hunting tradition."
Fox penning started in the commonwealth in the late-1980s. In the last three years more than 6,000 foxes have been hunted in pens, according the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Opponents argued that the sport was part of their age-old hunting traditions and said supporters' real motive was to end hunting in the state.
Steve Colvin, president of the Virginia Trappers Association, said he has been trapping wild foxes for the fox preserves since their inception.
"This is very important to us as we seem to be down here fighting for our rights as rural Virginians," Colvin said.
Marsden countered that bringing an end to hunting was not in any way his goal, noting that he has sponsored measures to allow hunting on Sundays in the state.
"Let's be on the side of ethical hunting, let's be on the side of fair chase," Marsden said. "Let's start to bring this industry under control so it can be enjoyed without the excesses."
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