Media Releases

Animal Protection Groups File Application for Review of Penned Dog Hunting Regulations Under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights

TORONTO—Animal Justice and Coyote Watch Canada have filed an application seeking legislative review under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), in the hope of ending penned dog hunting in the province, where hunters set dogs loose to chase and often maim or kill wild animals in penned enclosures.

The practice of letting dogs loose in fenced areas to hunt down wild animals was being phased out in Ontario thanks to legislation passed in 1997 that outlawed new pens. The number of pens had dropped from around 60 down to 24.

That changed last year when the government reversed the ban to appease extremist hunting lobbyists, who misled legislators about the brutality the so-called “sport” inflicts on the dogs forced to compete, and the captive coyotes, foxes, and rabbits used as bait. They claimed that animals are never hurt or killed in the pens.

But last year, Animal Justice went undercover at a dog hunting pen, where participants were clear that the dogs regularly catch, maim, and kill coyotes throughout the season. Hidden camera footage gathered during the investigation shows terrified coyotes running for their lives, and participants threatening violence toward dogs who didn’t perform well.

“There is a reason this vicious so-called ‘sport’ is outlawed in every other province. Allowing hunters to chase and kill terrified wild animals with dogs for prizes and cash is not something most Ontarians support,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice.  “Through this application for a legislative review under the EBR we hope the Ministry will close the door on this barbaric pastime once and for all.”

“Trial and train penning involves capturing and abducting wildlife from their natural habitats and holding them captive for human entertainment and financial gain. Coyotes and foxes are then chased, maimed, and killed by dogs in pens from which there is no escape,” said Lesley Sampson, executive director of Coyote Watch Canada. “These practices are not a far cry from wildlife trafficking and dog fighting, both of which are illegal nationwide.”

The Environmental Bill of Rights is a cornerstone statute that gives Ontarians the right to request a review when a law or policy needs to be improved to protect the environment.

Animal Justice and Coyote Watch Canada are requesting the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to review—and at minimum revoke—the new provisions, and ideally close down all existing dog hunting pens.

In their application, the two organizations assert that the decision to allow new licenses for “train and trial” areas is in direct conflict with Ontario’s animal welfare legislation and Canada’s Criminal Code which both forbid organized animal fighting — which is often an inevitable result of these hunts.

The application also outlines how the public consultation process required under the Environmental Bill of Rights was essentially sidestepped for the fast-tracked legislation, with the window for public comments closing after amendments had already been considered by the legislature for last year’s Less Red Tape, Stronger Economy Act, through which the changes were made.

During its undercover investigation, Animal Justice infiltrated private Facebook groups for penned dog hunters, where hunters shared photos of dogs with severe injuries, including a dog’s thigh impaled by a thick tree branch.  Videos posted within the groups included a man smiling at the camera while standing on a coyote’s head and hunters encouraging dogs to maul dying coyotes.

Penned hunting is widely condemned, and is outlawed everywhere else in Canada and most US states. 


Josh Lynn
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
[email protected]

Lesley Sampson
Executive Director
Coyote Watch Canada
[email protected]