Following the November meeting of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) regarding proposed changes to field trial permits and the chasing of fox and coyotes with dogs in an enclosure, two formal public hearings on the issue will be held on May 10 and 11 in Spencer and Plymouth, respectively.
According to Phil Bloom, communications director to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), comments and information from these hearings will be gathered to prepare the final report before the NRC votes on the rule change.
Currently unregulated, Indiana’s one known pen conducts “training” chases during hunting season under field trial permits. If the rule goes into effect, Bloom says “more supervision and rules” will apply. These guidelines will specifically address: food, shelter and veterinary care of the coyotes; minimum acreage; maximum number of dogs and hour; escape areas; fencing; and mortality reports.
Representatives from the Humane Society of the United States — responsible for the initial petition calling for a ban on penning — will attend the hearings, said Anne Sterling, Indiana State director. She anticipates a big turnout, citing “overwhelming support” for the proposal.
Laura Nirenberg, wildlife rehabilitator and attorney with Best Friends, is less optimistic that big crowds will turn out at the distant rural locations. “If the DNR wants a bill to fail, they schedule meetings in hunting country,” she said. “People get discouraged about coming to face a hunting group and being allowed only one minute to speak.”
Nevertheless, Nirenberg said she refuses to believe society would allow passage of this ruling and considers it a “great test case for animals — especially wildlife.” She has even suggested a compromise: muzzling the dogs and limiting the number of coyotes to 10 per year, verified by microchips. The response has been one of silence, leading her to believe there is “no happy ending. This is ugly. This is dog fighting.”
The Humane Society’s Anne Sterling explained that other states have attempted similar regulation of comparable facilities with little success. “The rule proposal is not innovative; it’s the same as other states have tried and it’s not working,” she said. “There’s no good way to do it. Most of those states are now trying to shut them down. If [regulation] really protected the animals, we’d have no issue.”
Whether or not the new ruling passes, Bloom indicated that the Linton facility could continue to conduct limited field trials — with state regulation.
Written comments may be submitted to the NRC online at www.in.gov/nrc/2377.htm or by mail before May 18.