Animal Justice Exposes Inhumane Practices at Ontario Dog Hunting Enclosures

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Animal Justice, an organization championing animal rights, has doubled down on its call for the ban on dog hunting enclosures in Ontario after a covert investigation revealed alleged inhumane practices. The damning expose highlighted both predators and prey suffering injuries during these encased hunting activities.

Back in June, the Doug Ford administration ticked off an omnibus bill which, inter alia, permitted an increased number of fenced-in training and trial spaces in the province. While the issuance of licenses for such facilities had been suspended by the then Progressive Conservative administration led by Mike Harris almost twenty years ago, 24 sanctioned enclosures still persist in Ontario.

These enclosures serve as vast, confined arenas for hunting dogs to trail wildlife species such as coyotes, foxes and rabbits. Camille Labchuk, Executive Director of Animal Justice, with impassioned fervour stated, “It’s undeniable, coyotes are incapacitated by fear by such hunts, hounded by baying dogs with blood on their minds.”

In a pioneering move, Animal Justice inaugurated its own probe into these areas around springtime, deputing a member to covertly document the goings-on at an eastern Ontario training area. This surreptitious investigator bore witness to an invitational event where a pack of hunting dogs was set upon coyotes with the allure of winning rewards.

Keeping the hunters’ identities concealed, the name of the authorized hunting zone was also kept hidden. The harrowing 10-minute long footage depicted packs of dogs racing across forested patches within the enclosures in a relentless pursuit of terrified coyotes, with judges meticulously jotting down the frequency of the dogs’ active engagement in the hunt.

A participant, whose identity was masked, disclosed that coyotes are being massacred weekly, and an even larger count of the local biodiversity is bearing the brunt through injuries sustained in the process. The footage also contained deeply distressing scenes where Animal Justice divulged images from private Facebook groups that highlighted coyotes being savaged by dogs within the enclosures. One shot depicted a handler inciting his dogs to mutilate an already wounded and defenseless coyote.

Furthermore, pictures of dogs that had been harmed in the process of chasing coyotes were also revealed. Labchuck’s critique spared none, “These hunting pens inflict not only physical cruelty to trapped coyotes, they also disrupt the balance of biodiversity in our province, by detaching the captured animals from the ecosystem, placing them in an environment where their ordinary interaction with the rest of the population is curtailed.”

In a stern message conveyed to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry this week, Animal Justice advocated for a much-needed interdiction on these facilities. Labchuck asserted, “The evidence is clear. The witness testimonies, footage, and basic knowledge of penned dog hunting make it abundantly clear that humane standards cannot be upheld in this context.”

In spite of the ministry’s assertion that they enforce strict standards and do not hesitate to penalize any wrongdoers, former Ontario conservation officers have claimed otherwise. They reported that current legislation is unenforceable, with hunters hunting down coyotes on a daily basis and the majority of them succumbing to their injuries.

Rebuttals from the hunting community highlighted the need for a more comprehensive investigation into the allegations and the necessity for reinforcing and enhancing enforcement mechanisms in these training regions. The Ontario Sporting Dog Association (OSDA) responded, expressing severe disappointment in Animal Justice’s depiction of the sport and presented commitments to enhance existing animal care and facility operating standards.

Animal defenders have suggested scent drags as an alternative humane and effective method to train dogs for hunts, successfully eliminating the need for wildlife within enclosures. However, the ministry is yet to clarify whether they are considering imposing a ban on these facilities or adopt alternatives to wildlife within their grounds.

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