Anti dog-hunting groups oppose hunters’ use of dogs to both hunt and aid in the tracking and recovery of game. Without dogs, sportsmen and women’s success afield, along with their ability to recover game, would be severely limited. Additionally, by hunting with dogs, sportsmen and women are able to fulfill their ethical obligations as hunters to make every possible effort to locate downed game.
Hunting with dogs has emerged at the forefront of controversial issues in several states, pitting anti-hunters against the many hunters who use dogs to passionately pursue a sport rooted in the history of their state. Hunting with dogs may entail using a dog or groups of dogs to flush animals such as rabbits or deer from thick cover or to track wounded game over difficult terrain. Thus, the use of dogs often allows hunters to fulfill their ethical obligation to do everything possible to recover game.
The use of dogs is a deep-seated component of hunting for wild game, including some dangerous game such as cougars and bears. Without dogs, sportsmen’s success afield would be severely limited for many types of hunting. Additionally, the use of tracking dogs improves the rate of game recovery. Some anti-hunting advocates are outraged by this method of hunting and have made repeated attempts to outlaw the activity. Their complaints include repeated reports of trespassing by hunters, damage to crops, property, and livestock, and various animal cruelty accusations. Sportsmen, as always, must remain prudent and ethical with their use of dogs to discredit the accusations of the anti-hunting community.
- In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation (Chapter 595), championed by the Humane Society of the United States, which makes it unlawful to permit or allow a dog to pursue a bear or bobcat at any time.
- Conversely, on February 1, 2013 the Nevada Wildlife Commission rejected a petition to ban the use of dogs for hunting bears.
Points of Interest
- Allowing tracking dogs to aid in the recovery of harvested or wounded game may improve the non-hunting public’s perception of hunting. It is the ethical responsibility of all hunters to do everything within their natural abilities to recover their game. Tracking dogs aid in the fulfillment of this responsibility.
- In response to the growing challenges emerging for the sport, the Virginia Department of Fish and Game commissioned a study and created a Stakeholder Advisory Committee to gather information on issues related to hunting with dogs for deer and bears, evaluate these findings, and recommend to the public possible strategies to address concerns.
- Dogs have long been prized partners of waterfowl and upland bird hunters. The use of dogs for these pursuits remains non-controversial and greatly enhances game retrieval.
- Anti-hunting interests in a number of states, including Oregon (1994) and Washington (1996), have successfully used the ballot box to ban the use of hounds for hunting bears and cougars. These groups were able to do so through the use of graphic images and misleading information that did not accurately depict hound hunting.
- A 2014 ballot initiative in Maine, supported by HSUS, to ban bear hunting with hounds failed after hunters rallied in support of this tradition.
- In 2016, Georgia enacted GH S 184 which defined registration requirements for hunting dogs.
- In 2023, New York proposed SB 5498, providing a clear definition and registration for hunting dogs so that they shall not be deemed to be running at large in violation with any local ordinances.
- In 2023, New York’s state legislature also passed SB 4099, which seeks to make contests, competitions, tournaments, and derbies to take wildlife unlawful. The bill’s sanctions do not apply to taking or hunting white-tailed deer, turkey, or bear; or to special dog training areas, field trials, or similar canine performance events. The bill awaits executive action.
While each legislator should tailor their approach to this issue to their constituency, it is important that they consider the impact on sportsmen and women when laws or regulations are proposed that would impact the use of dogs for hunting.