NEWS- Boar man guilty: But quash considered in Henshaw case

The Buckingham man who lost his boars in a controversial government slaughter was convicted January 19 of operating an illegal hunting enclosure, but the judge is considering a motion to quash the complaint.

The September 12 predawn raid of Danny and Cindi Henshaw's Gladstone hunting preserve and slaughter of at least 80 swine– including their two pet pigs, Cupid and Valentine– were to prevent pseudorabies, a highly infectious disease, the government says. 

However, the case has become a cause célèbre among activists distrustful of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dozens of supporters– including the "Granny Warriors" from North Carolina– showed up for the January 19 court date.

Henshaw's Charlottesville attorney, Norman Lamson, argued that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries had no jurisidiction to arrest Henshaw because state code does not list hogs as one of the seven "game animals"– deer, bear, bobcat, rabbit, raccoon, fox, and squirrel– that fall under Department dominion.

"Hogs are not game animals," said Lamson. "They're private property." Buckingham County Judge Robert Woodson is considering the motion to quash and will issue a decision February 16.

Less successful was Henshaw's argument that his boar preserve, Willis River Hunting, was a private club. When the General Assembly outlawed mammalian hunting enclosures in 1998, "We changed the nature of the business to a private club," Henshaw testified. Members paid $50 and another $450 if they shot a hog. "I've been in hunt clubs all my life," said Henshaw, a former nationally ranked bowhunter.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney James Bell pointed out that Henshaw had a website and advertised in Woods and Waters magazine. "We advertised for membership," insisted Henshaw. 

And when undercover game warden Sean Hacklin paid $500 for the boar he killed, Hacklin "was a member whether he knew it or not," Henshaw said.

The judge disagreed and convicted Henshaw of operating a hunting enclosure without a license, a Class 2 misdemeanor.

The state is still "depopulating" hogs at the Henshaws' 153-acre spread in northwest Buckingham County even after agents camped out there for 11 days in September, blasting boars with shotguns in what was officially dubbed "Operation Hog Wild."

An estimated 10 survivors are still being hunted, according to Elaine Lidholm, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Test results for the Henshaw hogs as of December 7 showed 15 of 47 animals tested positive for pseudorabies virus, and 14 tested positive for brucellosis, another swine disease.

Henshaw supporters wonder why the animals were not tested and quarantined, rather than the shoot-first, test-later strategy adopted by the state in this operation. And why the Henshaws were not allowed to take their own samples for testing. And why, if these highly contagious diseases were discovered when Hacklin hunted at Willis River in May, the state waited nearly four months to address the problem.

State Senate candidate Arin Sime in Crozet decries the "lack of due process and independent verification" and calls the case an example of how the "state bureaucracy is out of control." 

But those issues were not part of the January 19 hearing.

Henshaw supporter Becky Coit sat in on the hearing, which was difficult for spectators to hear, and was stunned to learn afterward that Henshaw was found guilty on the evidence. Her opinion of the verdict? 

"Bullsh*t," she declared. "It just amazes me."


Danny Henshaw awaits a judge's decision on whether the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries had the authority to arrest him for his feral pigs when hogs are considered livestock by the Commonwealth.