We were informed by Chris Gale of the Labour Animal Welfare Society that in February 09, there was some disagreement when an injured fox with mange was destroyed by the RSPCA in the belief that this was the best course of action.
Trevor Williams of The Fox Project was asked to comment. He writes:
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the particular incident reported, you can absolutely take it from me that ‘prolonged treatment’ of foxes has no effect on their tame-ness or otherwise. They may become more philosophical about handling and treatment, but that’s because they are not generally an aggressive species. Not that you ever trust them not to bite if given the opportunity! They also quickly realise that the daily indignity of being scruffed and bundled onto an examination table does not result in anything worse than an antibiotic jab or a few minutes wound cleaning. Once they’re safely back in their cage, they don’t look at you with growing affection and gratitude for your efforts, but with a withering glare…
The animals most open to danger of taming up would be hand-raised cubs and, despite holding many of them for up to four or five months, we got around 160 cubs – and 250 adult foxes – back to the wild in 2008, and do so every year. Many of these stay in the area for years and can be monitored, but very, very few allow close association with humans.
As for mange, even the most serious cases take no longer than a month to cure – minor cases go back home as little as ten days after capture. For us, prolonged treatment for a fox starts at 6 weeks. You can’t tame a wild, adult fox up in that time. In fact, you can’t tame a wild, adult fox up at all!
Having said all that, I wouldn’t want to comment on a casualty I didn’t see, and the description given of the animal is such that we would possibly have taken the same course of action as was taken. We take issue only with the irrelevant ‘length of treatment’ aspect as being a factor in whether euthanasia is justified or not.
The nature of wildlife rescue means we lose, in many cases by euthanasia, one third of the animals we rescue each year – after all, we’re not called to healthy foxes. And in some cases, foxes are brought to us, optimistically, by RSPCA officers who think the animals are borderline cases and deserve a chance.
~ The Fox Project. Visit www.foxproject.org.uk