Levy County condones animal cruelty

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By The Staff

Based on Ms. Lou Elliot Jones’ article regarding the Levy county commission passing a resolution in support of the practice of fox/coyote penning, one should ask, what were they thinking. For them to support this practice of pack dogs chasing down foxes and coyotes while in a penned area regarless of size, implies that they condone animal cruelty.

Proponents say they need to continue this practice in order to ‘train’ their dogs, and that its a ‘tradition’. Folks, its the 21st century and people need to become more enlightened. Since when has using dogs to kill other animals for sport, pleasure, and profit, become socially acceptable by our society? With their vote in favor, shame on all of them.

 The dogs used are trained to chase and when they catch the foxes/coytoes, the bait animals end up injured, maimed, or killed. Dog packs trained in this manner are not good for hunting other types of game such as deer or birds. I would also question, are these dogs really considered family pets as mentioned at a recent penning workshop in Gainesville (April 26). I didn’t see any county commissioner in attendance that night. Can a dog go from 15 mph with blood on its snout, to cuddling up on the couch with the kids?

And if they are being trained ‘to hunt’ an animal you don’t eat, why do it? For the perverse pleasure of hearing a pack of dogs rip apart the bait animals? Is this the desired message for children too? Studies have shown that children that participate in cruelty to animals, transition into violent behavior against other humans.

As to tradition, just because someone does something for awhile, doesn’t mean that its morally acceptable. Tradition in this case is a euphemism for blood sport. Dog and cock fighting is illegal, so why is this blood sport allowed to continue? In part because the state agency in charge of regulating all wildlife, the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) allows it, and has very few if any rules regulating the practice. They are also behind the times.

 There are no requirements for caging except that which applies to class II animals (coyotes) in general. Same with foxes which are class III animals, and a nebulous pen size of 100 acres or more. Permits are required to posssess both types of animals. Importing these animals from other states is how they get more animals to become dog bait as the local in state fox population is off limits. State wide arrests of 12 individuals in 2009, prompted the FWCC to reconsider this issue after a ten month investigation into violations of individuals using these animals in pens for the purpose of allowing dogs to chase them.

Charges included possession of fox/coyote without permit, purchase of fox/coyote without permit, importing fox/coyote into Florida without permit, failure to vaccinate prior to release, failure to control animal disease, and purchase of fox/coyote from an unpermitted person. And the FWCC does not know of all the pens in existence. Only when someone gets caught, does the information come out.

And this is the kind of practice the county commission wants to have continue in the name of ‘good for business’ here in Levy?

  Quarantining for imported foxes/coyotes (the only ones allowed to be used in this practice) is required, but there is nothing on the books stipulating how long (per Maj. Curtis Brown/FWCC). Vaccinations are required, but if even used at all, are specific to dogs (canines), nothing on the market specifically for fox/coyotes (per Dr. Mark Cunningham, DVM consultant for the FWCC). 

Rabies, distemper, and certain tapeworms can be transmitted to other mammals in our state. A specific strain of rabies broke out in Florida in 1994, suspected to be via an imported coyote from Texas.

Even the so called escape routes (culverts) are sometimes blocked to allow the chase to continue. And the hunters don’t want to micro chip their animals as that would be a liability on them if the bait animals escaped and bit someone. There isn’t even a disaster plan required for escapes in case a storm blows through and damages the fences/pens.

 The cattle/dairy industry among others, in Levy county is suseptable to these disease carrying animals, and those industries should question why the commissioners say this penning and blood sport is a good thing for our county. What about the impact to our native wildlife?

Losing profit was mentioned as necessary to continue this practice.  Why is anyone making money on this egregious practice anyway? Is gambling going on? Via entrance fees and to pay for the trophies of the baddest dog? Is some one anticipating an increase in dog food sales or fence material?

Gambling aside, if Michael Vick had “trained” his dogs using fox/coyotes and said it was for “hunting”, he would not have gone to trial or prison. At least in Florida under the current paltry rules.


The FWCC meeting is next Tuesday June 23rd in Lake Mary to hear public comment on this. The FWCC shouldn’t even bother trying to create new rules to let this continue.  

They should do the right thing, and put an end to this barbaric and outdated practice once and for all.