Lawmakers Propose Dozens of UAS, Location Privacy Bills
One Virginia lawmaker had wanted to limit private use. Sen. Frank Ruff of Mecklenberg County introduced a bill that said using an unmanned system “for the sole purpose of monitoring and photographing persons who are lawfully hunting on private land if done by a private person who does not have the permission of the landowner” would be unlawfully impeding hunting.
Ruff said he was inspired by an incident in South Carolina where animal rights activists tried to use a UAV to take pictures of a pigeon shoot — an event where captive pigeons are flushed from boxes to rise into the sky and be shot for sport by a circle of hunters. Few of the birds escape.
The drone, reportedly owned by SHARK, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness, did not escape either. It was shot down by the hunters.
Ruff’s bill may have more behind it than appears at first glance, however.
Virginia, which has been called the fox hunt capital of the nation, still allows the highly controversial practice of fox penning, also called hunt clubs. In one version of this practice, described in news reports, a wild fox or coyote is put into an enclosed area and then a pack of hunting dogs is turned lose upon it in an ostensible training exercise. The dogs chase, corner, and often tear to pieces the wild animal that, critics insist, often has no way to hide or escape.
A bill before the Virginia General Assembly this session would have banned another type of staged hunt — competitive events where hundreds of dogs are let loose in enclosed “fox preserves” to hunt down the trapped foxes and coyotes.
“Wild animals taken for fur, for food or other by-products is an acceptable part of wildlife management,” said bill sponsor Sen. David W. Marsden, D-Fairfax, reported Powhatan Today. “But capturing wild animals, placing them in pens and chasing them with dogs for our entertainment is not part of Virginia’s hunting tradition.”
A news report earlier this year suggested that an UAS might be used to capture such enclosed hunts on film — something that could have been damaging to the clubs. According to Powhatan Today, five fox pens operate in Mecklenburg County, which Ruff represents.