RICHMOND, Va. -- The state Board of Game and Inland Fisheries asked game officials today to consider exerting tighter control over fox penning.

Fox penning -- also called foxhound training -- involves trapping wild foxes, placing them in large, fenced, wooded areas and chasing them with hounds.

Opponents say dogs terrify the foxes and often kill them. Supporters say penning is a humane sport that allows dogs to be trained without getting on others' land.

During a meeting in Richmond, the board asked the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to look into tightening fox-penning regulations after opponents and supporters spoke emotionally for about 45 minutes.

The game department's staff is expected to recommend new regulations to the board in March.

If the board decides to go forward with the new rules, there would be a public-comment period. The board could adopt the rules in June.

The game agency regulates fox penning, but opponents say the rules are not strict enough. Many opponents want the sport banned or phased out over several years.

A spokeswoman for fox-pen owners said they can live with tighter rules but don't want to see the practice banned. ___

(c)2012 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)

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