Allegedly hired Maine trappers to supply Massachusetts field trials
PORTLAND, Maine––Jon Thomas Rioux, 36, a landscaper in Attleboro, Massachusetts, entertained himself and friends for years by setting beagles on snowshoe hares, until, apparently running out of rabbits locally, he ventured more than 150 miles north into Maine to find more.
Jon Thomas Rioux might have thought he knew Maine. His father John Rioux is a longtime guide at 15 Mile Stream Lodge & Outfitters, in Moscow, Maine.
Jon Thomas Rioux might have imagined that because Maine is a big hunting state, ranking only 32nd among the 50 U.S. states in human population but tenth in hunting license sales, practically anything done in the name of hunting would be accepted.
Ratted out for trapping rabbits
But Jon Thomas Rioux did not know Maine nearly as well as he thought he did.
“According to court records, in January 2021 an investigator received information that Rioux was soliciting Maine residents to live trap snowshoe hares,” a District of Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office media release summarized.
“On four occasions [Jon Thomas] Rioux illegally purchased snowshoe hares in Maine,” after soliciting others to trap them, “and then transported them to Massachusetts to use for beagle training and field trials.
“On March 16, 2022, Rioux was arrested by Maine Game Wardens and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Special Agents at the Kennebunk service plaza on the Maine Turnpike after his fifth purchase.”
Almost a year later on March 1, 2023, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen sentenced Jon Thomas Rioux to serve one year on probation, fined him $10,000, and ordered him to pay $1,843 in restitution to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.
But Jon Thomas Rioux was not charged with cruelty to animals, nor was that even a factor in his case.
Jon Thomas Rioux was prosecuted, explained Edward Grace, assistant director for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, because “Illegally trafficking wildlife across state lines not only exploits public resources, it threatens wild populations by creating the potential for disease transmission.”
The March 1, 2023 conviction for wildlife trafficking appears to have been Jon Thomas Rioux’s second brush with the law. He was arrested in Massachusetts a dozen years earlier, according to Patch, on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under intoxication, drinking alcohol from an open container in a motor vehicle, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stop for police, and speeding.
“Field trials” are only one aspect of sadistic pursuit
Jon Thomas Rioux, however, is not really the story––just an example.
The bigger aspect of his case is that it helps to illuminate arguably the most sadistic of the many sadistic and cruel practices associated with recreational hunting and trapping: setting dogs on captive prey in confined settings, within which the animals have practically no chance of escape, and even less chance of survival in unfamiliar surroundings even if they do somehow escape the usual fate of being ripped apart while still alive, after a terrifying and exhausting chase.
This activity takes many forms. “Field trials” using beagles, as Jon Thomas Rioux and friends do, are only one of them. The number of snowshoe hares killed in such events may be guesstimated from the number of trips Jon Thomas Rioux made to Maine to collect live-trapped hares during the year he was under law enforcement surveillance.
Hypocrisy at St. Jude’s
Some field trials, such as the Decatur County World’s Largest Coon Hunt, held annually in Tennessee to benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital of Memphis, make a pretense of preventing the prey animals, in that instance raccoons, from actually being mauled by the dogs used, in that instance coonhounds.
But even if no raccoons are physically harmed during the event itself, captive raccoons are nonetheless terrorized, and many more are chased and killed in “training.”
(See “Coon hunt” fundraiser may be seen as racist, frets St. Jude hospital.)
Variations on the theme
Similar pretense and hypocrisy prevails in hare coursing.
(See Bad Hare Days, by John Fitzgerald.)
In so-called “hog-dog rodeo,” pit bulls are set on feral pigs.
(See Will trainer Cesar Millan be charged for “hog-dog rodeo”?)
In “chase pens,” popular throughout the South and Midwest, dogs of various sorts are set on coyotes, foxes, and sometimes bobcats.
(See “Operation Foxote” brings chase pen busts in three states and Indiana to allow chase pens.)
Defended by wildlife agencies
The resemblance between legal “chase pen” activities and illegal dogfighting has long been recognized by humane organizations. Most forms of setting dogs on captive animals, however, are not only completely legal, but are actively defended by state wildlife agencies as essential training for hunters who hunt with dogs.
Translation: licensing pack hunters brings in revenue, at a time when active participation in hunting animals at large has fallen steadily for more than 40 years.
How many animals are killed?
ANIMALS 24-7 has for a decade logged the data from domestic dog attacks on other pet animals and livestock.
(See 10-year totals: pit bulls kill 81% of pets & livestock animals killed by dogs.)
These laboriously compiled numbers, however, do not include animals killed by dogs in legal “hunting” and training activities. Nobody knows how high that toll might be, because no government agency has ever kept track, and only the participants in the killing have access to the bloodbath to keep tallies.
“Live lure” training
“Live lure” training of racing greyhounds using captive hares may have ended in the U.S.––or not––after longtime greyhound breeders and trainers John and Jill Lashmet allowed their Colorado Division of Racing Events license to expire at the end of 2021.
The anti-greyhound racing advocacy group Grey2K USA had obtained video showing John Lashmet allegedly releasing live rabbits in a pen for his greyhounds to chase and kill.
A Colorado Division of Racing Events inspector reported that “Lashmet answered in the affirmative multiple times to my specific questions that the videos showed him using rabbits for live-lure training.”
Despite not being licensed to train greyhounds in Colorado, Lashmet reportedly continued to race greyhounds in Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mexico.
Greyhound racing has now ended in every U.S. state except West Virginia.
The cruelty associated with setting dogs on captive wildlife, including captive-bred foxes released to be hunted by foxhounds pursued by humans on horseback, scarcely ends with the “hunting” and training activities.
A current campaign by the antivivisection organization White Coat Waste Project focuses on the use of foxhounds in experiments undertaken in connection with seeking treatments for leishmaniasis, a disease carried by sand flies, afflicting both humans and dogs throughout much of the world.
Donated to University of Iowa
According to White Coast Waste Project spokesperson Justin Goodman, “Internal records from the University of Iowa obtained by WCW show at least 12 foxhounds were “donated” by unspecified individuals to the university to be abused in these experiments from 2017 to 2019. The documents show that all of the dogs were killed.”
ANIMALS 24-7 suspects, but cannot prove, that these donations trace back to an outbreak of leishmaniasis first detected at the Millbrook Hunt in upstate New York in 1999, soon discovered to have spread to about 40 foxhound kennels in 20 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces.
The Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America, founded in 1907, still lists 143 member hunts in 35 states.
Many participants, however, have “aged out” of actively riding to hounds, and some are believed to have donated their foxhounds for use in leishmaniasis research.
Jamaka Petzak says
Sharing with gratitude…and all the rest. Whatever gets it done. Moral bankrupts and those completely lacking in compassion generally don’t change. A negative balance might change their behavior, however.
St. Jude needs to be called out for accepting MUCH blood money from Wildlife slaughter groups. Only one example are many of the coyote killing contests held in Northern Wisconsin with names like the Santa Slay event. I know the killing contest held near Washburn WI donated in the past to St.Jude.
That’s how these blood sports try to legitimize themselves..by advertising that proceeds will go to a local sports team or to St.Jude etc.
Very good point. Very few people would ever associate St. Jude with gruesome wildlife killing contests. Any revenue st Jude gets from them is bound to be negligible, so I think this topic is ripe for a social media campaign calling out the contests and urging St. Jude to adopt a policy against any killing contest being allowed to use them as a marketing tool.
Merritt Clifton says
The raccoon hunt held to benefit St. Jude’s has been targeted in boycott campaigns many times since 1990 by organizations including the Animal Rights Network, the Fund for Animals, the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, and most recently and with the most sustained effort, PETA.