Friday, November 14, 2014

Reality Check: Foxes and the Law



Zara, the mate of Valo the fox.

Note: This is the first in a series of posts I'm going to be making as a reality check to potential fox owners--things that must be considered, but time after time I see newbies glossing over or completely ignoring. The tone here might not be friendly and I may come across as heartless, but I only have the best interests of your fox (or potential fox) at heart.

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So, you’ve done all your homework on their needs and care, and you’ve decided that yes, owning foxes is for you. You look up your state laws, and it turns out that they are legal pets in your state! In fact, they even issue permits specifically for foxes! Just sign up for that and you’re in the clear, right?

Not necessarily.

I find a lot of fox owners don’t seem to have a clear grasp of how the law works, and innocent foxes pay the price for it every year. Many people are under the mistaken impression that “State Law” always overrides city or county laws; if the state says it’s okay to have a fox, then it doesn’t matter what the city says. This could not be further from the truth. The reality is that the more restrictive ruling always applies.

If your state says “no”, but your city says “yes”: No, you can’t have a fox.
If your state says “yes”, but your city says “no”: No, you can’t have a fox.

It doesn’t matter if you have a state permit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nonprofit sanctuary. It doesn't matter if you're inspected and licensed with the USDA. It doesn’t matter how much you love the animal or how good your care is or how responsible you are. If your city has an ordinance against owning foxes, and you buy a fox, you are breaking the law, and you are in the wrong.

To reiterate: if your city has an ordinance against foxes, it doesn't matter if you have a state permit.

It also doesn't matter if the "State Division of Wildlife" or "State Department of Natural Resources" official who issued your permit told you that you are in the clear. Typically that individual only knows what the state laws are; while many do know local laws throughout their districts, not all do. And knowing the local laws is not their responsibility--it's yours.

It's your responsibility to make sure there are no state laws against owning foxes.
It's your responsibility to make sure there are no county laws against owning foxes.
It's your responsibility to make sure that there are no city laws against owning foxes.

The recent case of Valo the fox highlights this. The whole mess could have easily been avoided, as Fairborn OH has all of their ordinances online. A thirty-second google search reveals that Fairborn OH has an ordinance against them, and would have let the owner know not to move there. By taking the word of a state official instead of doing her own homework, the owner unintentionally put her foxes at risk. (A collar or a microchip could also have saved Valo's life, but that's a topic for another article.)

If you fail in your responsibility to make sure you are legally in the clear before obtaining a fox, and your animal is confiscated and/or euthanized because of it, then that animal's death is on your hands. Not the city, not the state, not the county, not the mean government officials who are just doing their jobs by enforcing the law--it is your fault for keeping an illegal animal.