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 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).
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.
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
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.
The sun was brightly shining through the clear glass of the window, beaming brightly across Martin’s shoulder as he sat in his usual chair, at his usual time, on a usual Sunday afternoon, just after he had eaten his usual breakfast. Martin was not a man of any interest as he went about his common routine. On this day, he had just finished eating his breakfast and had seated himself within the plushy armchair of no color, at which he would sit every cheery Sunday afternoon. Reaching to the small, wooden side table that rested at his side, he pulled the latest newspaper from the pile and unfolded it out before him. As he sat comfortably under the luminescence of the sun, he felt comforted within the heat that warmed him and quietly caught up on the latest news. He felt as if he was in total control as he reigned over his house and enjoyed his day.