Indiana DNR Takes On 'Live Bait' Dog Training Suppliers
Officers arrest Henry County trapper said to ship wildlife to southern states

By Don Jordan

Posted 12/1/07

You would have had to be watching the news like a hawk earlier this month to discover Indiana's latest wildlife scandal, but if you did hear about the arrest of a Henry Co. man for selling trapped animals to be used for "live bait dog training," you were probably as disgusted as I was.

Indiana Conservation Officers arrested Earl Hunt of Kennard on "multiple charges" after officers found evidence that hunt was heavily involved in illegal shipping and sale of wildlife. Hunt was also illegally holding 40 raccoons and two beavers.

The Indiana arrests came as part of a two-year, five state investigation of illegal wildlife trade. Besides Indiana, officers from Ga., S.C., W. Va. and Va. took part in the case, which is ongoing.

Hunt's arrest is just the tip of the iceberg in the live bait dog training business. Trapped "nuisance" animals like coyotes and raccoons are being sold to professional dog training businesses, primarily in the South, as live bait.

This is how it works. Joe in Alabama buys a coyote or a raccoon from a guy like Hunt in Indiana. The animal gets shipped to Joe who then turns the animal into a confined, fenced area. Then, Joe turns his dogs loose into the pen. The dogs then attack the wild animal and tear it to shreds.

I know some Indiana raccoon hunters have participated in this, and from what I have been told and seen, the dog training session is primarily blood sport entertainment for the men involved.

Live bait dog training is another gift from the South, akin to dog fighting, which is also illegal but popular in southern states. Dog fighting probably takes place in the North too, but Michael Vick's recent arrest and conviction on dog fighting charges has focused attention on Va. And Ga.

The arrest in Henry Co., came shortly after the Ind. Dept. of Natural Resources moved to tighten rules on keeping live coyotes. Under a proposed regulation, trapped coyotes would have to be euthanized within 24 hours of capture. The old rule said only that a coyote could be "taken" out of season by a land owner or authorized person. Live bait traders have argued that "taken" means the animal can be kept alive and resold. The DNR says "taken" means killed.

As usual, the argument is over money. According to most sources, a coyote pelt now sells for about $12 while a live coyote goes to a live bait business for $200. Live bait dog training is illegal in Indiana, and the DNR hopes to stop the trade in animals used for this purpose under the new regulation.

Unfortunately the DNR's new regulation does not mention raccoons or rabbits, two other wild animals frequently used by the live bait dog training crowd.

According to the Associated Press, citizens identified only as "trappers" are lobbying the Indiana General Assembly to overrule the new DNR rules. They have found a friend in State Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus) who says the animals in question have a better life in captivity as they await being ripped to shreds, than they do in the wild. He added that trainers prefer to keep their bait animals in "good condition."

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©Copyright 2007. Donald Lee Jordan.