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I: Michigan Community Forces Relocation of Anya the Domesticated Fox

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.”

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I: Texas Government Confiscates Mikhail and Nikolai the Domesticated Foxes

In late 2009, a company emerged within the United States under the name SibFox Inc. with the website, SibFox, located at 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).

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I: Pet Fox Cases

While foxes are not popular animals to keep as companions, there are many cases of keeping foxes as pets. From these cases, we can understand the responsibilities involved with owning a fox as a pet and the consequences one must be prepared to handle. Unfortunately, several pet fox cases have tragic endings for the animal due to human fear, misunderstanding, negligence, or restriction. Only a few cases of pet-fox ownership are documented here.

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I: The History of Fox Domestication at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Science Experimental Fox Farm

Since 1959, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Science in Novisibirsk, Russia has been attempting to domesticate the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, on their experimental fox farm, a project now known as the “Farm-Fox Experiment” (Kukekova et al. 2011; Spady and Ostrander 2007; Trut 1999). Currently led by head of the research group, Dr. Lyudmila N. Trut, the experiment was initiated by the late evolutionary geneticist and Director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Dr. Dimitry K. Belyaev. In 1948, a time when Soviet genetics was beginning to recover from the anti-Darwinian ideology of Trofim Lysenko, Belyaev lost his position as Head of the Department of Fur Animal Breeding at the Central Research Laboratory of Fur Breeding in Moscow. His commitment to genetics led him to conduct genetic research under the guise of studying animal physiology. Under his leadership, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics was founded and became a center of basic and applied research in both classical and modern molecular genetics (Trut 1999). Belyaev mainly worked in genetics and animal breeding and was heavily influenced by the work of Charles Darwin (Belyaev 1979). “Animal domestication was his lifelong project, and fur bearers were his favorite subjects” recalls Dr. Trut (1999, p.162).

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Chapter I: Introduction

The dog, Canis familiaris, has become one of the most popular companion animals since it was domesticated from the gray wolf, Canis lupus, its sole progenitor (Wayne et al. 1997). Because of its incredible versatility and variety, the dog can adjust and accommodate to fit the lifestyle of his owner. Young and Bannasch (2006) report that the dog has the greatest diversity recognized within any single species. Dogs vary in body size and type, ear and tail length and carriage, coat patterns and colors, craniofacial features, and even limb formation. Virtually any and all combinations of traits can be manipulated in dogs through selective breeding, creating a variation in morphology, anatomy, physiology, and behavior.
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