INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Critics from Indiana conservation and sporting organizations are speaking out against a bill that would legalize canned hunting. That's where deer or other animals are placed in a fenced area for people to hunt.
"People should not hunt in pens. Deer should have the opportunity to escape. And these deer that are hunted are honestly domesticated," said Jerry Wheeler, who is with the Indiana Wildlife Federation.
Indiana has five deer preserves where you can hunt in a fenced in area. They've been operating since 1998.
The DNR unsuccessfully tried to shut them down and there's been an on going legal battle. Now State Representative Matt Ubelhor is leading the way to legalize the preserves.
"They've been operating clean, safe and providing a service for hunters of various walks of life whether they are busy professionals or disabled veterans or just the family that wants to get out and enjoy the wildlife," said Ubelhor.
Opponents to canned hunting say the preserves should be shut down for two reasons. The first has to do with sportsmanship. They view hunting any animal in a closed in area is unethical.
"We believe fair chase involves pursuing a white tail deer in its natural habitat and that doesn't include a surrounding fence to restrict its movement," said Tom James, president of the Indiana chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association.
James says the second reason the preserves should be shut down has to do with animal health risks.
There is a concern the preserves could unknowingly import deer from out of state that carry a disease known as CWD or chronic wasting disease.
The neurological disease spreads from deer to deer and can wipe out large populations. Right now Indiana is CWD free.
"If it shows up in Indiana, the only course of action is to eliminate as many deer as possible in that zone to prevent further spread. At a great expense to the tax payer," said James.
Representative Ubelhor says the current bill prohibits importing animals from any state where CWD has been identified.
"If we shut down the preserves, or allow them to go out of business, that is the equivalent of shutting down the slaughter houses of cattle, pork, whatever it might be," said Ubelhor.
The bill will be up for discussion in the House next week. Governor Mike Pence says he is open to legislation that allows the existing preserves to remain open.
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