Agree with hunting preserves? Hot topic for Humane Lobby Day at Statehouse Wednesday

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By Lindy Thackston

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 3, 2015) - Wednesday is your chance to get involved with animal welfare bills moving through the House and Senate. It's Humane Lobby Day and a few issues are getting a lot of attention in Indiana and are expected to draw a crowd.

One of those is the always-contentious topic of high-fenced deer hunting.

"Captive hunting is really the shooting of semi-tamed deer behind fenced enclosures," said Erin Huang, Indiana State Director of the Humane Society of the United States. "Oftentimes it is a no-kill, no-pay guarantee and usually what we’re dealing with in Indiana are deer and elk."

Huang is fighting for Senate Bill 442, which would ban not only that type of hunting, but also internet and drone hunting.

The hunting preserve issue goes back more than a decade in Indiana.

About a dozen of those facilities existed before the Department of Natural Resources eventually shut them down in 2005, but four are still operating under an injunction.

People against it say they have several reasons, including their belief it's unethical and spreads disease.

"We’re just hoping that the Senate bills do get hearings, those are bills that deserve to move, those are bills that people feel very strongly about and so we’re hoping that advocates will be able to talk to their legislators and have a push for this bill to get a hearing," said Huang.

But some don't want to see it go away. They want rules put in place.

Representative Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) authored House Bill 1453 for that, and said in a statement to FOX 59, "This session, I authored a bill to bring common-sense guidelines and regulations to this industry. We are currently exploring this legislation in the Natural Resources committee which seeks to set guidelines for license fees, acreage, fencing, inspections and record keeping on these hunting preserves."

He continued, "As the chairman of this committee, it is my responsibility to ensure that this issue is properly vetted and that our committee is presenting the best possible legislation to the full House. This continues to be my focus, and I look forward to continued discussion of this issue."

If that passes, it would also allow for more hunting preserves to open.

Click here for more on HB 1453.

For more on SB 442, click here.

SB 442 would also make attending animal-fighting a felony.

"Attendance at an animal fighting contest is a felony only if you have an animal there with you," said Huang. "So it would really just strike that portion that is the requirement that you have the animal. Because otherwise, simply attending is a misdemeanor. There needs to be a little bit more for law enforcement to be able to get people with if they catch them there."