By Joe Koning

The often negative public perception of foxes is the subject of a battle between the NSW Government’s Local Land Services and the registered charity Sydney Fox Rescue.

Reviled and revered, the urban fox. Photograph by Brian Carson used under Creative Commons licence

Reviled and revered, the urban fox. Photograph by Brian Carson used under Creative Commons licence

The Sydney-based charity originally acted to rescue and rehome injured or orphaned foxes, although it has been unable to do so since March last year due to legislative changes.

These restrictions were part of the 2014 European Red Fox Pest Control Order enacted by Katrina Hodgkinson, formerly Minister for Primary Industries, which declares the animals pests.

Additionally, Sydney Fox Rescue was issued with a media blackout as part of the first draft of permit conditions for previously rehomed foxes which, according to organisation President Charlie Jackson-Martin, was absurd.

“This clause wanted to erase the existence of rescue foxes. They were such an issue in terms of the image of the Government, who were persecuting these animals, that they wanted to erase them from history,” he says.

The clause –  as part of fox ownership conditions – stated that all print, web and social media relating to the rescue and rehoming of foxes, and to the existence of foxes kept in captivity, would be banned.

Graham Wilson, Manager of Greater Sydney Local Land Services Biosecurity and Emergency Services, says, “The NSW Government worked with Sydney Fox Rescue and fox owners to develop a set of conditions that struck a balance between the Pest Control Order for foxes, animal welfare guidelines, and the expectations of fox owners.”

He described foxes as playing a “central role” in the death and extinction of several native species.

After receiving legal help, Sydney Fox Rescue was able to get the conditions relating to the ban removed, and has again started campaigning on behalf of the fox.

Although the ban has been lifted, Mr Jackson-Martin suggests that elements of it are still evident in the current system.

Foxes that were previously rehomed are unable to be taken into residential dwellings or removed from the properties where they have been kept, and are unable to meet other people unless they are friends of the owner.

They are also unable to be used for any purposes that could be described as advertising.

Concerning the fox’s image, Mr Jackson-Parker suggests it has not always been negative. “Somewhere in our history a shift occurred where they became this vile, feral, detestable animal,” he says.

He says that if more people could see them in domestic settings in all their beauty, this misconception would dissipate.

The transport of foxes, including taking them to the vet, is also illegal unless done by qualified people.

The Pest Control Order suggests that injured or orphaned foxes should be euthanised if found.

Jamie Parker, NSW Greens MP. condemned this notion while speaking at a Sydney Fox Rescue event in Glebe.

He said, “The Government is set to criminalise acts of compassion, and to me that is just plain wrong.”