Faux Foxes: Fox Domestication and Pet Ownership

FAUX FOXES: FOX DOMESTICATION AND PET OWNERSHIP

HONORS THESIS

by

Noelle M. Brooks

THESIS SUPERVISOR: Harvey Ginsburg, Ph.D. | Department of Psychology
SECOND READER: Bob Fischer, Ph.D. | Department of Philosophy
APPROVED: Heather C. Galloway Ph.D. | Dean, Honors College


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ABSTRACT

Since 1959, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novisibirsk, Russia has attempted to domesticate the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, in order to better understand the domestication of the dog, Canis familiaris, from the gray wolf, Canis lupus. Interest in owning these newly-domesticated animals as pets has increased, adding to the controversy of exotic pet ownership. Pet foxes in the United States have come across negative community attitudes and have been relocated, confiscated, and even exterminated as a result.

This study investigated existing participant attitudes toward pets and pet ownership and analyzed how the manipulation of canine physical attributes by domestication can affect participant perceptions. Anonymous surveys were administered to 97 undergraduate students enrolled in psychology classes at Texas State University. Each participant’s attitudes toward dogs and pet-dog ownership were measured alongside their attitudes toward domesticated foxes and pet-domesticated-fox ownership. Additional questions were created to assess participants’ legal and ethical attitudes, knowledge of fox domestication, and opinions and experiences in regard to pet ownership. Images were created to isolate physical attributes in canines in order to assess their impact on human perception of undomesticated and domesticated features.

The results of this study showed a preference for pet dogs over pet foxes and provided evidence that a majority of people have participated in the practice of owning pet dogs. A connection was found between attitudes toward pet dogs and foxes. Attitudes toward dog and fox breeding and laws regarding pet-dog ownership and pet-fox ownership showed a preference for the legal possession of dogs as pets over foxes, but a moderate agreement to both dog and fox breeding. A low percentage of participants were found to have knowledge of the Farm-Fox Experiment and a moderately-high percentage showed interest in owning a domesticated fox as a pet. This study’s illustrations found that participants instantly reacted to physical attributes manipulated by domestication, but often preferred the standard wild red-colored fox. Different physical traits were also found to have different perceptions of participants.

This study has shown that while our communities are not yet ready to accept these animals into the home, there is potential. Not only do these animals have the genetic potential to become more domesticated and suited for life with humans, participants were shown to have moderately high favorability scores toward pet domesticated foxes.


DEDICATION

This study is dedicated to the memory of the companion foxes that have lost their lives due to the fear, misunderstanding, negligence, and restrictions of humans and the owners whom loved and cared for them. To Anya, Vader, Valo, and Miko, and their owners Kay, Tara and Eric, Chloe, and Anda, may this honor the bonds you shared and the lives you created together.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

The History of Fox Domestication at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences Experimental Fox Farm

Methodology

Results

Behavior

Communication

Development

Physiology

Reproduction

Anatomy

Conclusions

Pet Fox Cases

Texas Government Confiscates Mikhail and Nikolai the Domesticated Foxes

Michigan Community Forces Relocation of Anya the Domesticated Fox

North Dakota Police Exterminate Vader the Ranched Fox

Ohio City Exterminates Valo the Ranched Fox

Virginia Police Confiscate Swiper the Ranched Fox

Foxes as Pets

II. RESEARCHER’S INTENTIONS

Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1: Pet Dogs Compared to Pet Domesticated Foxes

Hypothesis 2: Ethical and Legal Attitudes

Hypothesis 3: Perceptions of Wild to Domesticated Fox Images

Hypothesis 4: Knowledge of the Farm-Fox Experiment

III. METHODOLOGY

Participants

Demographics

Materials

Participant Information Page

Cover Page

Survey

Section I

Section II

Section III

Section IV

Section IV A: Stop Angle and Body Part Length

Section IV B: Ear Curl

Section IV C: Tail Curl Angle

Section IV D: Fur Color

Section IV E: Composite

Procedures

Statistical Analyses

IV. RESULTS

Pet Dogs Compared to Pet Domesticated Foxes

Ethical and Legal Attitudes

Perceptions of Wild to Domesticated Fox Images

Domestication

Attraction

Ownership Desirability

Knowledge of the Farm-Fox Experiment

Test of Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1: Pet Dogs Compared to Pet Domesticated Foxes

Hypothesis 2: Ethical and Legal Attitudes

Hypothesis 3: Perceptions of Wild to Domesticated Fox Images

Hypothesis 4: Knowledge of the Farm-Fox Experiment

V. DISCUSSION

Pet Dogs Compared to Pet Domesticated Foxes

Ethical and Legal Attitudes

Perceptions of Wild to Domesticated Fox Images

Domestication

Attraction

Ownership Desirability

Knowledge of the Farm-Fox Experiment

Foxes as Pets

Contributions

Limitations

Recommendations

VI. CONCLUSIONS

REFERENCES


FAIR USE AND AUTHOR’S PERMISSION STATEMENT

Fair Use

This work is protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States (Public Law 94-553, section 107). Consistent with fair use as defined in the Copyright Laws, brief questions from this material are allowed with prior acknowledgement. Use of this material for financial gain without the author’s express written permission is not allowed.

Duplication Permission

As the copyright holder of this work I, Noelle Marie Brooks, authorize duplication of this work, in whole or in part, for educational or scholarly purposes only.


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