Ontario Considers Expansion of Controversial Dog Hunting Training Amid Rising Demand and Animal Welfare Concerns
Ontario is considering expanding a licensing regime that allows residents to train dogs for hunting within enclosed areas using captive coyotes, foxes, and rabbits. There is a growing demand for the dog sport, known as training and trialing, with hunters arguing that its increase is necessary to prevent the sport from going underground. Graydon Smith, the province’s natural resources and forestry minister, said that without intervention, these facilities would decline in number, potentially causing unwanted interactions with people and wildlife if dog owners move to private or Crown land for training.
In 1997, the Progressive Conservative government began phasing out dog trial areas in Ontario by stopping the issuance of licenses and making it illegal to sell or transfer them. There were once over 60 such areas across the province, but now there are only 24 licensed train and trial areas. The province has proposed a one-time 90-day application period for new licenses and allowing the transfer of existing ones.
John Bell, the president of the Ontario Sporting Dog Association, said at a legislative committee that the closure of dedicated training and trialing areas has forced hunters to “run their dogs” in the wild. Bell, who trains his dogs to hunt coyotes, argued that there are rules in place for animal safety, including the requirement for brush piles, dens, and man-made escape units, or pods.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters also supports the dog trial proposal. However, Camille Labchuk, executive director of advocacy group Animal Justice, calls the practice inhumane. She said, “They do some of these contests where dogs chase terrified coyotes around an enclosed pen, and they also train the dogs to kill the coyotes so that they can later use those dogs for hunting.” Labchuk suggested that the current Progressive Conservative government should follow the example set by the Harris government in the late 1990s, which protected wild animals by ending the spring bear hunt and phasing out penned coyote hunting.