Virginia Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose Cruel “Fox Penning,” Support Stronger Pet Store Regulation

Animal advocates urge lawmakers to ban fox pens, disclose breeder information
January 16, 2014

RICHMOND, Va.Virginia voters overwhelmingly oppose the practice of “fox penning” by a more than 9-to-1 margin – and a large majority support legislation to prohibit the practice. A new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research surveyed 625 statewide voters on various animal welfare issues. Fox pens are fenced enclosures where dogs are released to chase wild-caught, stocked foxes, often killing them. More than 7,000 foxes were subjected to these unsporting and inhumane events in Virginia in the last six years.

Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS said: “Virginians strongly oppose the cruel practice of fox penning. As more people in the commonwealth become aware of this barbaric activity, the more they believe the time has come to take down the fences and put an end to this blood sport. The Humane Society of the United States urges legislators to ban fox pens across the commonwealth.”

The statewide survey reveals that 75 percent of Virginia voters oppose the practice of fox penning and just 8 percent support it. The survey results were consistent in every political demographic and region of the state, with every group and party affiliation opposed to fox penning. Voters statewide support legislation prohibiting the practice by a margin of more than 6-to-1, and support legislation prohibiting staged competitions inside fox pens by a margin of more than 13-to-1. Senator David Marsden, D-Burke, has recently introduced Senate Bill 42, legislation that would ban fox pens in the state.

The new poll reveals that 72 percent of statewide voters currently support legislation to ban fox penning, with only 12 percent opposing such a bill. This is up from 51 percent supporting and 23 percent opposing in a similar January 2012 survey. In just two years, the numbers demonstrate that fox penning is a growing concern among Virginia voters of all demographics and party affiliations.

In the same poll, 81 percent of voters said they believe that pet store owners should be required to provide consumers with information about the breeder and origin of puppies they sell prior to sale. Legislation introduced by Senator Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, would require this common-sense disclosure and would strengthen Virginia’s “pet lemon law,” which provides compensation to consumers who unknowingly purchase sick puppies from pet stores.

Ann Church, vice president of state affairs for The ASPCA said: “Virginians are clearly eager to see the General Assembly put an end to the brutal blood sport of fox penning, a practice this poll confirms as wholly inconsistent with the values of Virginia residents. The ASPCA also urges legislators to respond to citizens’ overwhelming support for a requirement that pet stores disclose the origin of puppies they sell by enacting Senate Bill 228 into law. Purchasers deserve to know the background of their new pets.”


  • A 2002-2004 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries-commissioned study revealed that most foxes within pens are killed by dogs and that foxes die in pens at a much higher rate than in the wild.
  • On Oct. 18, 2012, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries voted unanimously to consider increased fox pen regulations during the 2013 review process. However, the regulations were largely unenforceable and did not address the fundamental problems with fox penning.
  • In the fall of 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to these pens. Virginia officials temporarily shut down 31 of the Commonwealth’s 41 pens. 
  • Captive fenced wildlife facilities are historically responsible for the spread of some strains of rabies and other deadly wildlife diseases. 

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