TORONTO—Animal Justice, a national animal law advocacy organization, is denouncing a plan by the Ontario government to reverse a province-wide ban on new cruel “train and trial areas”—enclosed outdoor dog hunting pens where animals such as foxes, coyotes, and rabbits are used as live bait to train hunting dogs.
Penned dog hunting is illegal everywhere else in Canada, and in most US states. Penned dog hunting is widely condemned because it causes extreme and unnecessary distress, suffering, and death to wild animals, while posing threats to public health and safety at the same time.
Ontario outlawed dog hunting pens in 1997. Existing pen operators were exempt, but the goal was that hunting pens would be phased out over time as owners retired or left the business. There are now only 24 pens left in the province, down from 50-60 when the ban was passed.
But pro-hunting groups like the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Ontario Sporting Dogs Association have lobbied to reverse the ban so that new dog hunting pens can open up, and existing pens can be sold to new owners. The government is currently consulting the public on this deadly proposal through the Environmental Registry until May 18, 2023.
“Penned dog hunting is cruel and vicious, which is why no other province allows hunters to chase and kill terrified, caged animals with dogs,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Most Canadians oppose hunting animals for entertainment, and it’s especially troubling when coyotes, foxes, hares, and other animals have no way to escape. It’s unacceptable that Ontario is ignoring the will of the public and reversing the phase-out of dog hunting pens—all because a handful of sport hunters want to participate in this horrific bloodsport.”
The coyotes, foxes, and rabbits used as bait are typically caught by trappers, and sold so they can be released into pens and hunted to death. The caged animals run for their lives, but have nowhere to escape to. When they are caught, they are often maimed or killed by the dogs. The dogs that are forced to participate can also suffer from injuries or even death at these events.
Dog hunting pens often host contests where dogs are scored by a panel of judges based on their ability to track the captive animals. Prizes may be awarded to participants, and spectators are often in attendance.
Penned hunting can also have serious consequences for public health. Interacting with wildlife contributes to the spread of disease and parasites, including zoonotic diseases that can hurt wild animals, domestic animals, and humans.
Videos and images of penned dog hunting are available here.