Senate Bill 1280, which is being patronned by Senator Dave Marsden, would have prohibited the issuance of any further licenses for fox pens in Virginia and would also have prevented the current ones from being transferred so as to cause their ultimate phase out over time. This bill was amended by Senator Stuart, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee where the bill was being heard, so as to limit it to only prohibiting staged competitions in fox pens. While this was a significant reduction in the reach of the bill, it still gets at one of the primary ways the pen owners make their money on the pain and suffering of animals and removes one of the main vehicles for their infliction of suffering. The substitute bill was reported out by the committee to go now for a vote before the full Senate. This was a huge step in the right direction since the General Assembly has heretofore consistently resisted taking any action to address the dreadful threats and abuses of fox pens. The fox penners were there in force conveying their usual attitude of entitlement to entrap and commercialize the beautiful wildlife of Virginia that should be for the enjoyment of us all. For the first time ever, they did not succeed.
The public statements prior to the committee's vote included a powerful and informative statement by Ed Clark of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Mr. Clark who is widely respected for his knowledge of wildlife issues, spoke of the enormous risks of the spread of rabies to people and to other animals created by the movement of foxes, a vector species for rabies, around the state when they are trapped and taken to these penned enclosures. We will ask Mr. Clark to write for our blog so that the crucial information he provided about the serious issues of the spread of this deadly disease may receive a wider publication. It was deeply troubling to me that there was no further discussion among the members of the committee about the serious public health issues associated with fox pens that Mr. Clark had clearly brought to their attention. I intend to help to highlight these very concerning issues in the future in the hope that our elected or appointed representatives will begin to understand what horrific threats these fox pens pose and take responsible action to address them.
For the moment, we should all rejoice that a step in the right direction happened yesterday. Let us now hope that, and do all we possibly can to achieve, the passage of the bill before both the Senate and the House of Delegates.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.