Welfare is not always an easy and straight forward thing to determine. What constitutes good welfare varies between different people and organizations, and what is satisfactory according to one definition may not be enough for another. One widely used measure of animal welfare is the Five Freedoms, and while it is not a completely definitive test, it serves as a starting point to consider possible welfare issues and how they can be remedied. The Five Freedoms are:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease
3. Freedom from distress
4. Freedom from discomfort
5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being (BC SPCA, n.d.).
At the very minimum, an animal should be provided with these freedoms to be considered to have good welfare. This will serve as a guideline for considering if it is acceptable to keep pet foxes through the lens of animal welfare.
For both true domestic and ranched foxes, living as a pet under a competent owner would address the first two freedoms. However, fulfilling the remaining three freedoms may be more difficult in a captive environment. Freedom from discomfort and freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being are both tied to the environment provided to the fox by their owner – any enclosure must be physically comfortable, and allow the expression of natural behaviour intrinsically important to the fox. This ties into freedom from distress, which could result from an inappropriate home. Thus, providing a proper home environment is a key part of ensuring appropriate welfare for a pet fox.