On September 7th, 2014, Chloe Kristensen found her silver-colored fox, Valo, missing from his outdoor enclosure (Crowe 2014). In order to make her community aware of the missing animal, she contacted the Fairborn Police Department, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), and the local news station. “I immediately contacted everyone because I know how big of a deal this is. Because a fox is not a dog. People will hurt him,” she told WDTN Channel 2 News (Moore 2014a).
WHIO (2014) reported that on September 10, 2014, Kristensen was contacted by a wildlife officer to inform her that her fox Valo had been euthanized. Valo was found by a neighbor who had accidentally trapped the fox in a rabbit trap and contacted the city of Fairborn. Chris O’ Banion, a trapper from Advanced Wildlife Management, Fairbank’s contracted nuisance trapping company, sent a photograph of the canine to ODNR for identification and was told the animal was a silver-haired fox, an animal not native to Ohio and “most likely someone’s pet” (Crowe 2014).
“When the fox was caught, there was no collar, there was no chip, and the ears weren’t tipped,” explains Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick in the Fairborn Daily Herald (Crowe 2014). “The city did not know it was a pet, and we acted according to what the Ohio Department of Natural Resources suggested to us.”
Written in the ODNR’s Nuisance Wild Animal Control Certification Manual’s Disposition of Nuisance Wild Animals section (2013): “To prevent the issue of moving certain problem animals from one location to another, and due to concerns for the spread of disease, it is unlawful to fail to euthanize, or release on site, any live trapped nuisance: raccoon, skunk, beaver, coyote, fox –red or gray, opossum” (p. 9). Because Valo was not easily identifiable as a pet, he was established a wild animal and was euthanized on September 8, 2014 due to ODNR protocol (Crowe 2014). “Because he didn’t have a collar and tags shouldn’t have meant he was killed,” protested Kristensen in the Fairborn Daily Herald (Crowe 2014). “Dogs are held for three days, why was he not held to the same standard? They didn’t even bother to try to look for his owner.”
Seeking answers, Kristensen attended a City Council meeting on September 15, 2014 and spoke with Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick (Crowe 2014; WHIO Breaking News Staff 2014). Mayor Kirkpatrick told WHIO News Center 7 (2014) that Kristensen should not have had the pet fox in the first place and that she was violating a city ordinance. “We have an ordinance that was written several years back that says that you cannot have a wild animal in the city of Fairborn and a fox is not considered a domesticated animal,” he explained.
Mayor Kirkpatrick seemed to be referring to Part Five – General Offenses Code, Chapter 505. Animals and Fowl. Section 17. Keeping wild or exotic animals. of the Fairborn Codified Ordinance, passed in 2006:
(b) No person shall harbor any wild [any non-domesticated animal, including hybrid, which generally lives in its original natural state, and is not normally domesticated, and/or falls under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources] or exotic animal [any animal, including hybrid, which is foreign and generally not native by birth to the local community] or animal that is endangered within the municipality.
(e) Animals which may be owned or harbored within the municipality are: pure domestic cats, pure domestic dogs (not hybrid), domestic rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mice, hamsters, gerbils, parrot-like birds, non-poisonous fish, non-poisonous reptiles, and non-poisonous snakes under five feet in length, and horses owned prior to the effective date of this ordinance.
In the Fairborn Daily Herald (Crowe 2014), Kristensen said that she had an ODNR “Noncommercial Propagating license” that allowed her to keep Valo. Under Title 15 XV Conservation of Natural Resources, Chapter 1533: Hunting and Fishing, Section 71. License to raise or keep game birds and animals. of the Ohio Revised Code:
(A) Unless otherwise provided in this section or by division rule, any person desiring to engage in the business of raising and selling game birds, game quadrupeds, reptiles, amphibians, or fur-bearing animals [minks, weasels, raccoons, skunks, opossums, muskrats, fox, beavers, badgers, otters, coyotes, and bobcats] in a wholly enclosed preserve of which the person is the owner or lessee, or to have game birds, game quadrupeds, reptiles, amphibians, or fur-bearing animals in captivity, shall submit an application to the division of wildlife for a license to do so. This section does not apply to a person who possesses wild animals under the authority of a license for a wild animal hunting preserve or a commercial bird shooting preserve.
The division, when it appears that the application is made in good faith and the applicant is in compliance with division (B) of this section, if applicable, and upon the payment of the fee for each license, may issue to the applicant any of the following licenses that may be applied for:
(2) “Noncommercial propagating license” permitting the licensee to propagate game birds, game quadrupeds except captive white-tailed deer, reptiles, amphibians, or fur-bearing animals and to hold the animals in captivity. Game birds, game quadrupeds except captive white-tailed deer, reptiles, amphibians, and fur-bearing animals propagated or held in captivity by authority of a noncommercial propagating license are for the licensee’s own use and shall not be sold. The fee for such a license is twenty-five dollars per annum.
Kristensen may not have realized, however, that city ordinances can overrule state laws that allow the ownership of an exotic pet and can deny a license or permit for that animal. “It’s one of those issues where the primary goal of any government is to protect the citizens of that area, and in this case the citizens of Fairborn, and wild animals are an issue that we’ve had problems with in the past,” explains Mayor Kirkpatrick in the Fairborn Daily Herald (Crowe 2014).
Valo’s story, like Vader’s, highlights the importance of knowing and understanding the laws regarding the ownership of exotic pets. Although a fox owner may obtain a permit or license from the state that allows him to own a fox as a pet, the permit or license may not be valid in specific counties or cities within that state. Those who wish to own foxes as pets must check with all governing bodies in their area to ensure that their animals are legal, and thus protected.
Valo’s case also highlights the importance of pet owner responsibility. Because pet foxes are foreign to many communities, measures must be taken to keep the fox on one’s property and symbolize that the canine is a pet and not a wild animal.
Foxes can be difficult to contain as they are skilled at jumping, climbing, and digging, so a pet-fox owner must find a way to safely contain the animal and prevent him from escaping. Outdoor fox enclosures should include secure roofing and flooring in order to prevent the fox from climbing out or digging underneath. The State of Michigan (DNR 2014) requires that a fox enclosure be eight feet by six feet with six feet in height to enclose a single fox, and the enclosure must be expanded 24 square feet of floor space for each additional animal. Clawing logs, a two feet by two feet by two feet den, and a 14-inch by 36-inch protected shelf area at least one foot above the floor are also required for each fox in the enclosure. One should check his own area’s laws for fox enclosure requirements or use the requirements from another area, such as Michigan, as a personal guideline for what should be provided for a pet fox.
Owners must also find ways to identify the fox as a pet, such as having the animal microchipped, tagged, tattooed, or even simply labeled by wearing a collar with tags in case the animal escapes. Having the animal easily identifiable as a pet will improve the chances of having the animal returned and will assure community members that the animal is owned and not wild. “If the fox had a collar or a chip, this might not have happened the way it did,” states Mayor Kirkpatrick in regards to Valo’s death (Moore 2014b). A pet fox should only be owned if it is legal according to the owner’s state, county, city, and zoning laws and can be safely contained and identified. If the fox’s owner does not take the responsibility to ensure that his fox is legal, contained, and labeled, he is risking his fox’s life and well-being.