Protection of Wild Foxes and Coyotes: Background

In penning operations, coyotes and foxes are trapped in the wild - often in leghold traps - and subsequently released into fenced enclosures, to be chased and often mauled to death by domestic hunting dogs during field trials. Last year, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) proposed rules to outlaw the practice. This year, the Department is considering rules that would authorize the continued operation of existing pens and allow new pens to be established until a proposed January 1, 2012 moratorium. Meanwhile, on behalf of the WCI Foxhound Training Preserve located near Linton, Indiana, IDNR’s director, Robert Carter, has waived the state’s legal requirement that one must have a permit to possess wildlife outside of hunting season - based on the assertion that coyotes and foxes trapped in the facility’s enclosures are not technically "possessed" because there are small, unintentional perforations in the poorly-maintained wire fences through which the animals could theoretically escape.

The Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs have brought suit against the IDNR and its director seeking a declaratory judgement that persons who do not have a valid wildlife possession permit but who have physical control over or intend to exert dominion and control over animals used as live prey in field trials at the WCI Foxhound Training Preserve are in unlawful possession of Indiana wildlife.