Call it What it is: Bait Sport

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Warning: this blog mentions animal death and distress

Operating facilities with captured wildlife to hunt with dogs were outlawed in 1997 in Ontario, with the grandfathering of 60 facilities. Known as ​​​​Train and Trial facilities, today only 27 of them remain in the province. These facilities are fenced in areas that hold captured coyotes, cotton tailed rabbits and captive bred red foxes for the purposes of teaching hunting dogs tracking and hunting skills. The Government of Ontario recently tabled a concerning proposal to allow more Train and Trial facilities, and here’s what you need to know.

pack of hounds
Hounds © Lil Shepherd CC BY 2.0

​​​​​Lobbyists with the Ontario Sporting Dog Association, who supported the expansion of these facilities claim no animals are ever at risk at these sites or at trials. More recently though, ​​​​leaked undercover footage by Animal Justice shows a judge at a Train and Trial event speaking candidly of how hounds can outrun coyotes, catch and kill them. Large multi-day trials are held frequently at Mallen’s Pen, in Seeley’s Bay, ON, and the Brunswick Foxhound Club Facebook page shows trials this year had 170 dogs running together to hunt coyotes held in the pens.

Eastern coyote
Eastern coyote © Jacquie Dankner

After much lobbying from a group with interest in Train and Trial facilities and events, this spring the government of Ontario proposed an amendment to the Fish and Wildlife Act, 1997, (ERO-019-3685) “Proposal to allow the issuance of licenses for new dog train and trial areas and the transfer of licenses”. During the public consultation period many people spoke up online and, in the media, including two former Ontario conservation officers who had first-hand experience and concerns stemming back from 2006. In an interview they told a story of not being able to intervene when they found dozens of terrified coyotes stuffed into dog crates being transported by trappers. That incident eventually led to the shutdown of a dog fighting ring where many coyotes were mauled to death as dog after dog was swapped out to fight them. The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society expressed concerns around distress, harm and death caused to animals in these facilities.

Red fox
Red fox © Peter Ferguson

Most concerningly, the monitoring of animals held in these facilities is based on the principle of good faith by operators. As part of standard regulations, the facilities are supposed to keep track of what volume of animals are being used and on what frequency their numbers are being replenished. But where is the accountability?

There are no rules around how a coyote on a snare line is handled from the time it is in pain and captured until the time it is transported to a train and trial facility. So it begs the question, how many die before they make it there? How much suffering are they forced to endure? Snare lines were designed to trap an animal before killing it. How are the coyotes removed from the trap line? How injured are they when they arrive, and how soon are hounds set loose on them?

pack of hounds
Hounds © John Harwood CC BY 2.0

As someone who has been involved in the dog sport world for the last 15 years, I can only imagine the abuse that takes place in these facilities. I’ve seen people struggle to maintain their temper with their domestic dog that they are training for sport; the coyotes at these facilities face unimaginable pain and suffering and distress, for however long their lives last. Coyote penning disrespects nature and disrespects hunting principles. It should have ended in 1997. The government has not yet posted a decision on this proposal, and so it’s not too late to contact your MPP and let them know that you do not support this cruel practice. Please help us spread the word today.


Wrongly accused: Ontario’s wolves and coyotes are in the crosshairs, Blog

Under the Gun, Feature, ON Nature, Spring 2016

Why Algonquin Wolves Are Dying, Feature, Seasons, Winter 2001

Crying Wolf, Feature, ON Nature, Spring 2020

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