California bans hunting black bears and bobcats with hounds
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2012: (Actually published on November 1, 2012.)
SACRAMENTO–California Governor Jerry Brown on September 26, 2012 signed into law SB 1221, a bill banning the use of hounds to hunt black bears and bobcats. The new California law came amid increasing recognition that hunting with hounds is more like dogfighting and the medieval practice of “baiting” tethered animals than it resembles hunting with weapons which can effect a quick kill. There are few quick kills when dogs chase wildlife, often for hours, in hunts that often culminate in the prey making a frantic last stand against the pursuing dogs. . In traditional hounding, hunters follow the hounds on foot or horseback by listening for the barks that indicate they have the prey “at bay,” typically treed or cornered, and surrounded, unable to escape. If treed, large prey such as bears, bobcats, and pumas may be shot out of the tree. Raccoons may be shaken down to the dogs. Non-climbing species, including coyotes and foxes, may be torn apart by dogs on the run. Lead dogs in hound packs today have usually been fitted with radio collars that enable the hunters to follow the dogs by using telemetry.
. Dogs as well as prey are often injured–in confrontations with prey, falls, running through thickets, stepping on sharp objects, and as result of just getting lost. Rural animal shelters in states with traditions of pack hunting have noted autumn influxes of lost, injured, and abandoned hunting dogs for as long as shelters have existed.
. Passing the California hounding ban “was a tough fight,” said Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle, requiring “battling the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, California Houndsmen for Conservation, and every other major player in the hunting lobby.”
. Pacelle and Earth Island Journal managing editor Maureen Nandini Mitra separately attributed the momentum behind passage of SB 1221 to the shocked public response after hunting media published photos of then-California Fish & Game Commission president Dan Richards posing with the remains of a puma he killed in Idaho. The hunt would have been illegal in California, where pumas are protected by a ballot initiative passed in 1990.
. All five members of the California Fish & Game Commission, including Richards himself, on August 8, 2012 voted to remove Richards as president, but allowed him to remain on the commission until his appointment expires in January 2013.
. While endorsing the intent, the passage of SB 1221 and ouster of Richards were not praised by Action for Animals founder Eric Mills, one of the senior animal rights lobbyists in California.
. “Sixteen hundred bears and 1,200 bobcats will still be killed every year, with or without the use of dogs,” Mills said. “And what’s to become of the estimated 22,000 hunting hounds? California Houndsmen for Conservation president Josh Brones told me that many of the dogs would be re-trained to hunt gray fox and raccoon. So are we simply trading one bunch of dead animals for another?” Mills asked. “How many gut-shot bears will be left in the woods to suffer a lingering death? How many hunters will pursue such a bear into deep cover without the use of dogs?
. “I was hoping,” Mills said, “that the governor would veto SB 1221, and that HSUS would then do a state ballot initiative to stop all sport hunting of bears, bobcats and other apex predators. And I think it would pass. Don’t forget that Proposition Two,” to improve conditions for factory-farmed pigs and chickens, “passed with 63% of the vote. More people care about fuzzy bears and bobcats than do about chickens, I think.”
. As to Richards, “I’ve been attending California Fish & Game Commission meetings for more than 25 years,” Mills said. “Richards was well-informed, willing to listen to all sides, honest and outspoken-qualities not always shared by his colleagues.”
. Governor Brown signed two other bills that “bring much needed changes” to California wildlife management,” Mitra wrote. “AB 2402 changes the name of the Department of Fish & Game to the Department of Fish & Wildlife. The name change, that downplays hunting, rightly reflects the department’s transition over the years from an agency that mostly serves hunters to one that has a broader mission of wildlife conservation.”
. AB 2402 also “seeks to improve the department’s use of independent science, and to increase transparency and accountability,” Mitra said, while “AB 2609 requires that members of the Fish & Wildlife Commission have wildlife backgrounds and sets new processes and ethical standards for the commission and its appointed members.”
. But Brown vetoed SB 1480, a bill introduced by state senator Ellen Corbett, which according to Paw PAC founder Virginia Handley “would have established a trapping license for people who trap wildlife who are doing damage for a profit,” would have prohibited killing trapped wildlife “by drowning, crushing chests, or injecting chemicals,” and would also have forbidden trapping lactating females.
“While we should all be elated at these hard fought wildlife victories,” said Project Coyote founder Camilla Fox, “at least 17 states still allow hound hunting of wildlife and ‘penning,’ where coyotes and foxes in fenced enclosures are used as live bait to train hunting dogs. And Wisconsin is proposing hound hunting of wolves,” Fox added, “even though the estimated state wolf population is less than 850.”
. Wolves in the Great Lakes region were protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act from 1974 until early 2012. Wisconsin and Minnesota introduced wolf hunting seasons for fall 2012. Michigan is not expected to open a wolf hunting season until 2013.
. The Wisconsin wolf hunting began on October 15, 2012. Hounding was to be allowed after November 26, but Dane County Circuit Court Judge Peter C. Anderson on August 31 granted a temporary injunction against hounding wolves, at request of the Dane County Humane Society and Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, representing more than 40 humane societies around the state. The injunction both prohibits the use of dogs to hunt wolves, and prohibits training dogs to track wolves.
. Judge Anderson on October 19, 2012 allowed the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, Safari Club International, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, and the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin to participate as would-be intervenors on behalf of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, but the case for either lifting the injunction or making it permanent will not be heard until December 20.
. Representing the plaintiff humane societies, Madison attorney Carl Sinderbrand pointed out that other states offering wolf hunting season mostly do not allow hounding. Alaska, which has increasingly promoted wolf hunting since 1993, allows only the use of one leashed dog to track a wounded wolf.
. Sinderbrand testified that depredation payouts made to hunters who claim to have lost 195 dogs to wolves since 1985 while hounding bears or training to hound bears demonstrate the risk to hounds from direct confrontations with prey.
. Sinderbrand suggested that the risk could be reduced by requiring hounds to remain leashed; limiting the use of dogs to scent hounds, who would be less likely than sight hounds to directly confront bears; and requiring professional training of wolf hounds.
. Wisconsin set a wolf quota of 116 for 2012. Minnesota, with three to four times as many wolves, set a quota of 400. The Humane Society of the U.S., the subsidiary Fund for Animals, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Howling for Wolves have sought to prevent the hunts with a variety of last-minute litigation.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries board on October 18, 2012 directed the department to recommend regulation to govern the management of fox pens. Hunting coyotes in chase pens is already prohibited. “The board, which could have enacted a ban, instead decided to let staff continue to study the practice and consider the possibility of tighter oversight,” summarized Steve Szotak of Associated Press.
. There are now 37 fox pens in Virginia, where hounds are released to pursue captive foxes. The pens acquired more than 4,000 foxes in the three years 2009-2011.
. “Not all fox are trapped on the outside and brought into a life of terror, as they say. [Some] are born and bred there,” Virginia Foxhound Training Preserve Owners Association board member Michele Taylor told Szotak.
. Regardless, “It’s a form of animal cruelty and it should be stopped,” responded HSUS Virginia director Laura Donahue.
. “I do not understand how it is any different from any other form of animal fighting,” said Richmond SPCA chief executive Robin Starr. A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey commissioned by HSUS found in January 2012 that Virginia voters oppose the operation of fox pens by an 8-1 margin, and favor outlawing it by a 2-1 margin. Fox hunting has retreated to chase pens as landowners have become increasingly reluctant to allow pack hunting on their property–often due to liability issues.
. Holding a New Year’s Day hunt since 1914, the Huntingdon Valley Hunt, of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, moved it to Dark Hollow Park in Warwick in 1970. Neighbors John and Judy Cox, whose 10-year-old Labrador retriever Daisy was attacked by the Huntingdon pack during the 2012 New Year’s Day hunt, in October 2012 sued the hunt club and hunt master Richard Harris.
. The Cox case alleges that “The defendants took no measures to warn the public or anyone who might be proceeding on public lands in their path that they would be riding through the property at a high rate of speed with excited, unleashed hounds, trained to hunt and kill, pursuing a small animal to kill it or otherwise frighten it.”
. Recounted Bucks County Courier Times staff writer Laurie Mason Schroeder, “Harris was later cited for failure to control the dogs. The state attorney general’s office investigated the incident but did not recommend further charges be filed. The hunts were briefly stopped by the township, which issues permits for fox hunts, but later allowed to continue.”