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Lion's Demise Shines Light on Captive Hunting in IN

Four captive-hunting preserves in Indiana are operating under a court injunction. Credit: Eric Berthe/Morguefile
Four captive-hunting preserves in Indiana are operating under a court injunction. Credit: Eric Berthe/Morguefile
September 14, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – The killing of a beloved lion by an American hunter in Africa sparked global outrage this summer, and it's also bringing to light the issue of captive, or canned, hunting in Indiana and other states.

In these hunts, shooters pay to kill animals trapped behind fences. In other countries, exotic animals are the prey, but in Indiana, deer are hunted.

Erin Huang, Indiana state director of the Humane Society of the United States, says these animals are farm-raised, fed at intervals and not really given a fair shot at survival.

"While there have been escapes, certainly, which is one of the big issues and one of fears that people have with the spread of disease, the animals are contained within these fenced enclosures so they don't really have a way to escape the hunter – and in some instances they may be so accustomed to people that maybe they don't even run," she points out.

Chronic Wasting Disease is among the disease concerns because it's more likely to spread within contained deer populations than wild populations.

Currently, four canned hunting preserves are operating in Indiana under a court injunction. And recently a Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the facilities, stating that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources did not have the authority to ban captive-hunting operations.

Huang says the industry has been working to legalize captive hunting for nearly a decade, but efforts have failed. But there hasn't been much progress on the other side.

This year, a bill (S.B. 442) to ban the practice did not get a hearing. Huang is hopeful lawmakers will try again in 2016 so Hoosiers can have a say in the matter.

"It at least should get a hearing and it should allow people to come and testify and give their opinions on this,” she stresses. “This isn't something that Indiana needs to be known for. We have so many great things to offer in this state."

Huang adds that a survey in 2010 found the majority of Indiana voters (80 percent) were against captive hunts of deer, elk and other large animals.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN