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. The criteria for breeding foxes were those that consistently displayed tame behavior with respect to people. Within just 10 generations of selectively bred foxes, the animals began to show dramatic changes within their behavior, communication, development, physiology, reproduction, and anatomy, demonstrating a genetically domesticated breed of fox. The ICG has since commercialized the Farm-Fox Experiment and offers domesticated foxes for sale as pets (Trut 1999).
The results of this study revealed participant attitudes toward dogs and domesticated foxes in regards to pet ownership, breeding ethics, and ownership legality.
Hypothesis 1: Pet Dogs Compared to Pet Domesticated Foxes
Attitudes toward dogs and pet-dog ownership (Pet Dog Attitude Score,) (M = 4.48, SD = 1.0,) were more positive than attitudes toward domesticated foxes and pet domesticated fox ownership (Pet Fox Attitude Score,) (M = 3.48, SD = 1.45).
Pet Dogs Compared to Pet Domesticated Foxes
This study investigated attitudes toward dogs compared to domesticated foxes as pets and ownership of these animals, analyzing how the manipulation of canine physical attributes by domestication can affect participant perceptions. The purpose of this study was to improve our understanding of attitudes about domesticating wild foxes and selling them as pets.
Because the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novisibirsk, Russia has begun selling and commercializing its domesticated foxes as pets (Trut 1999), controversy has arisen. The legislature is unsure of how to define these animals, whether wild, exotic, or domesticated, as illustrated by the city of Farmington in Anya’s case, and some people are still suspicious as to whether or not these animals are truly domesticated and should be welcomed into our homes.
Thankfully, not all pet foxes meet with a grim fate. When fox owners understand the laws regarding the ownership of foxes as pets and provide for their animals correctly, foxes can be successfully kept as pets, such as with Alayna Sitterson and her pet fox, Swiper.
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).
In December of 2012, Eric and Tara Hiatt (2013 August) contacted Tiny Tracks Exotic Animals LLC, a USDA-licensed breeding company, Certificate No: 32-B-0211, located in Auburn, Indiana (USDA 2015) about purchasing a ranch-raised pet fox. During the weekend of May 4th-May 5th, 2013, Tara Hiatt (2013 August) drove 1,500 miles, one-way, to purchase her new pet, a silver-colored morph of the red fox. Because of her husband’s love of Star Wars and the fox’s dark-colored coat, they decided on the name “Vader” and started the blog, May the Fox be With You at maythefoxbewithyou.tumblr.com. On her blog, Hiatt posted photographs of her exotic pet and answered questions about pet-fox ownership. Unfortunately, her blog may have resulted in the death of her pet.
Ater losing her fox, Viktor, to the Texas government because of state laws on fur-bearing animals, Kay Fedewa began to turn her sights on a new Russian domesticated fox at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. On December 7, 2011, Fedewa posted to the Sybil’s Message Board forum titled, SIBFOX SCAM and domestic fox discussion, about the new fox, “The female’s name is Anya. She is 8 months old (same age as Viktor) and related to him. Over the summer she was taught tricks like a dog. She is described as being very friendly toward people and incredibly clever.”
In late 2009, a company emerged within the United States under the name SibFox Inc. with the website, SibFox, located at http://www.sibfox.com. On December 12, 2009, the subtitle of SibFox read, “SibFox is an official distributor of tame foxes from Siberia,” and the front page boasted, “We work directly with the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (Russia) that bred tame foxes for over 50 years” (2009 December b). On its About Us page, SibFox Inc. described itself as “a private company [that] operates as a distributor and a point of contact between North America pet lovers and Siberian tame fox breeders. We work with the farm directly and have Russian speakers on our team” (2009 December a). The website claimed that the company’s purpose was to “introduce tame foxes as pets in North America and establish non-consumptive relationships between foxes and people” (2009 December a).