Stop Cruel Rat Hunt in Missouri

Target: Virginia Huxley, Owner of the Columbia Canine Sports Center

Goal: End cruel “Barn Hunt” of domesticated rats

The Columbia Canine Sports Center is a renowned dog-training facility in Columbia, Missouri. However, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one training exercise centers around a “Barn Hunt” of domesticated rats. In this so-called hunt, living rats are stuffed into tubes and hidden in hay bales, which dogs-in-training must then sniff out by scent.

It should be obvious that torturing rats is no way to train a domestic animal. Dogs must be properly socialized to respect other animals in order to thrive in human society. Although some dogs are trained intentionally for hunting, stuffing another domesticated creature into a tube and hiding it in a barn is not hunting. It is just cruel and unusual.

Rats are intelligent, social creatures who feel pain and fear, and who bond with members of their own families. Although Columbia Canine Sports Center officials claim no animals are hurt during this exercise, animal rights advocates deny that can possibly be true due to the nature of the event. Shoving an animal carelessly into a tube and then encouraging a predator to find it is clearly animal abuse, especially when considering that these are domesticated rats unused to fighting off predators. Ask the Columbia Canine Sports Center to end this cruel practice.


Dear Ms. Huxley,

Torturing one domesticated creature for sport is no way to train another domesticated creature for society. The Columbia Canine Sports Center has come under fire from animal rights groups for its “Barn Hunt,” a dog “training” exercise in which domesticated rats are stuffed into tubes and hidden in a barn for dogs-in-training to find by scent. Encouraging dogs to adopt a predatory nature towards other domestic creatures is a recipe for disaster. It will only encourage those dogs to harm other pets once they leave your program. Furthermore, attempting to train a dog to hunt by stuffing a rat into a tube from which it cannot escape does not even simulate a practical, real-world situation. It’s just cruel and unusual.

Domesticated rats are intelligent creatures who feel pain and fear. They love their lives and develop friendships with their companions. They are not used to fending off predators in the wild, and they should not be subjected to this cruel “Barn Hunt.” I ask that you stop this practice at your facility henceforth.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Linsenhejhej via Wikimedia

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  1. Joan Dietz says:

    Anyone who could possibly think a rat, tame or wild, could not be stressed severely by its participation in this so-called “sport” either has very little imagination or a poor understanding of rats as animals, or both. These are highly intelligent animals and they may be “trained” to enter a plastic tube but that does in no way mean they enjoy the subsequent noise, smells and dizziness that goes with being “hunted” in this way. What’s next, legal cock fighting? As a Missourian I ask to have this barbaric practice stopped immediately. Let’s not be ashamed of our state.

    • Joan I appreciate your affection, advocacy and concern for rats. I assume, like me you never buy animal tested products and are a vegan. I have been doing animal rescue for 25 years and I am a biologist. I know all to well what stress does to an animal not only in the immediate sense but tertiary impacts as well. I am very confident and certain that the rats are not harmed in anyway. I really hope one day you will join us at one of these “hunts” (not a hunt at all) and see that we are all like minded people.

    • Marlene Schlichtig says:

      I realize that you made this post in July 2014, and by now you have had time to educate yourself on the joys of Barn Hunt. My friend’s rats are loveable and cuddle and love to be around dogs. In the sport of barn hunting the dogs are taught to ‘indicate’ the location of the rats. It is about the hunt, not the kill. Great care is given to these rats AND training goes into working with the rats so they are well adjusted. If you have not already done so, spend a day at a barn hunt location and learn the names and personalities of the rats. These rats look forward to ‘working’ and are richly reward.

  2. Tanya Ross says:

    Stop these bad barn hunts. The dogs get mean the rats die and no one wins! Rats are animals too they need saved. Stop hunting them with your dogs!

  3. Stop this sport! It’s too cruel to the poor dogs who do the work and then miss out on the crunchy rat treats.

    • It is obvious you do not know what are the natural genetic behaviors of a dog. Most dogs love the hunt and that in itself is rewarding. They get to run free in a safe enclosure, go through tunnels, and climb mountains of straw bales! You should see the expressions of joy! They often challenge themselves to find more rats in a shorter time. What better way to celebrate a dog then to let him/she participate in a sport that promotes ‘dog’. BTW, their final rewards for each run is far more rewarding than a crunchy rat treats (chicken, apple, carrots, banana, etc.)!

  4. Victoria Salter says:

    I signed the petition, but am not 100% sure that this is actually all that cruel. I thought “do they actually kill the rats?”… Anyhow, I signed it because I thought of the stress levels it could cause in the rats, and then I read Barn Hunt Phoenix’s comment. Do they actually kill those rats or not? If yes, is their death quick and painless (or relatively painless) or not? Please answer my questions and take note of the fact that I can get quite upset about real-life animal cruelty…

    • The rats are not harmed at all, as a matter of fact they live quite well. They are not stressed out. I think the “term” hunt is not even all that accurate for this sport. This is like nose work, where you would hide an item (in working dogs it’s explosives etc) and have the dog sniff and signal. No harm comes to the rats. The rats are owned by long time rat enthusiasts that protect them and oversee every single second of the “hunt”. 100s of rats are rescued from craigslist, rat food and labs to have this wonderful life. It’s actually a win for rats.

  5. I do not have a pet rat nor do I know anyone who does. However, fear is fear and suffering is suffering and some things don’t need to happen. I just read the comment re the rats are being done a favor. So, in order to be rescued they must be subjected to terror. I can just imagine what the rats endure. It would be no different than taking a puppy, kitten, cat or small dog, putting them in a tube and turning out coyotes, foxes, raccoons or tigers to hunt them. It wouldn’t be allowed. Just because they are rats doesn’t mean they don’t experience fear. Being a small helpless creature and hearing the sound of being hunted along with those big fangs coming at them is terrifying. This is so sad and defeating to the efforts of those who are trying to help animals. A new atrocity and right here in the United States where we are supposed to smarter, kinder and willing to defend the helpless. I am sorry there are humans so desperate for entertainment that they resort to this. So many good deeds could be done in the world, helping animals not hurting them. Very very sad. Since the rats cannot tell us if they fear being hunted over and over again, if we are to err please let us err on the side of humane behavior.

  6. Jeff Smith says:

    The rats are fine. Domesticated rats basically have their adrenal gland bred out of them. I have a bunch of rats that I use for barn hunt and Earthdog. I sometimes hold one of my dogs up to the cage of rats and encourage him to bark and snap at the rats. Yea, at first they scattered – like when I open the cage to give them food – but now, they just stand there and sniff his breath. Their reaction is similar to when I first got them and put them into their cage.

    Now using wild rats – that’s a different story. Those things would completely freak and probably have a heart attack.

    • Marlene miller says:

      It is very cruel and I promise you these rats know what is happening and it’s NOT fun for them. Put yourself in their place. Say we put you in a tube and we will set a bunch of tigers to hunt you. Sound fun?

    • Marlene miller says:

      Oh dear god. Did you really say their adrenal glands are bred out of them? Are you 10? Cause if u are I forgive you. If you are an adult please don’t breed. Rats have adrenal glands. All rats. Rumors of the adrenal are common in rats

  7. I also do barn hunt. I have had pet rats in the past and I agree with you all 100% that they are smart, kind, loyal and loving. This is why I do not buy an cosmetics or household items that test on animals. I also do not eat red meat at all because of the cruelty involved in factory farming. So I absolutely agree with you that rats deserve respect and love. They get that as participants in this sport. They enjoy going in the tubes and having a job. They live in large cages with their family and friends and always have all the toys, food, water and love they need. They are treated with the utmost about of respect. I actually do not consider this hunting at all, I consider it nose work. My dog works the room, hits on the scent a very subtly indicates that a tube with a rat has been found. He does this by making a little cry and if I am lucky he nudges the tube and then looks at me. The rats are not harmed. As a matter of a fact they enjoy having a job. In exchange they live very good lives with their rat friends. And finally, many of the participants support the local rat rescue. Some may argue that we are a welfare group for these rats since many would have been bought by labs or fed to reptiles. One last thing, I had a pet rat named McKenzie that was free range in my room. She would go into her cage to poop or take a nap but generally she was a free roaming house pet. She used to steal my mail and money if I left it out and hide it under the bed. She was adorable. I also had a pet rat named Alice who died of cancer and broke my heart. She had regular trips to vet and we added a year onto her life by removing the first tumor and changing her diet. Alice was a genius. I wold never harm an animal as I prefer animals over humans. I appreciate your concern but I promise you, no rats are harmed. They have great lives filled with joy and most importantly, communal living.

  8. Because of Barn Hunt i now have pet rats that I love dearly. Before I always thought they were ugly, disease ridden creatures that should be disposed of. The education of Barn Hunt has opened my eyes to the beauty of these creatures. My ratty girls enjoy living indoors, fresh fruits and veggies, i even cook for them and rarely do that for myself. I cant imagine not having rats now and struggle not bringing them all home from the stores that sell them for feeders. We recently tried to retire two older boy rats and they wont stay out of the travel carriers. I have offered my rats the choice of staying in a tube or going to their travel carrier and they stay in the tube. I have to insist they take breaks. Anyone caught not providing their rats the highest care are quickly removed and banned.

    • This is so sweet. This is what the barn hunt is all about. And your right, if ANYBODY even thinks they can mistreat any animal not only will they banned, I’ll meet them in the parking lot. It simply doesn’t happen. We love out rats.

  9. i own 6 rats who are part of the family. They live with 4 dogs and are not at all fearful of them. One will actually try and grab them if they get close.

    We participate in Barn Hunt and the rats could careless. They are treated with the greatest of care whether they are participating in Barn Hunt or in my home. They are trained to enter the tubes and when they are done many have gone to sleep in the tube.

    There are rules for rat care that must be adhered to and everyone complies.

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