More Than 110 California Veterinarians Join HSVMA In Supporting an End to Inhumane "Hounding" of Bears and Bobcats

July 17, 2012

Bear in tree
SB 1221 would protect California wildlife as well as the hounds used to track them down.

More than 110 California veterinarians recently joined with HSVMA in calling for an end to the inhumane practice of hounding of bears and bobcats. Veterinarians from throughout the state—representing both rural and urban areas and private practices and shelters—signed onto an HSVMA letter supporting Senate Bill 1221. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would prohibit the use of packs of hounds to pursue and kill bears and bobcats in California.

SB 1221 has already been approved by the California State Senate and recently passed out of the Assembly’s Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee. When the legislative session resumes in August, the bill will go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and then face a vote of the full Assembly.

“As advocates for animal health and welfare, we strongly agree with the central premise of this bill, that hounding should be banned because of the inhumane treatment of all species involved,” said Paula Kislak, DVM of Santa Barbara, president of the HSVMA Board of Directors. “Not only are we disturbed by the suffering the bears and bobcats endure in the relentless pursuit, we are also equally concerned about the welfare of the dogs, many of whom are at risk of life-threatening wounds, and may end up abandoned in the wild or surrendered to a shelter.”

Hounding entails using packs of up to twenty dogs fitted with radio collars to track down bears and bobcats for trophy hunting purposes. The dogs pursue their targets until the animals are exhausted and either climb a tree or confront the pack. Once radio transmissions indicate the pack is stationary, hound hunters join their dogs and easily kill their trophies, often shooting the bears or bobcats off tree limbs at nearly point blank range.

California veterinarians: You can still help!

Contact your state assembly representatives and encourage them to vote "Yes" on SB 1221.

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Hounding violates traditional hunting ethics; the practice has been likened to shooting fish in a barrel. Fourteen states, including Montana which has the second largest hunting participation rate in the country, do not allow hounding of bears. In fact, Montana prohibited hounding in 1921. In California, less than 1 percent of the population hunts, and an even smaller subset participates in hounding. And a full 83 percent of California voters oppose this unpopular practice.

Hounding dogs may indiscriminately disturb non-targeted wild animals such as deer and ground-nesting birds, as well as endangered or protected species. They will give chase for miles across all terrain, sometimes trespassing in national parks and forests, and on private or protected properties. Farm animals and pets have also been harassed, injured and killed by hound dogs in pursuit of prey.

The health and welfare of hounding dogs can be significantly compromised by their participation in this practice. They can be injured or killed while chasing and confronting target animals, or other wildlife they encounter during pursuit. They can become dehydrated and ill due to exposure and exertion. Houndsmen may keep their dogs hungry to encourage their prey drive. The dogs can become lost or separated from their packs, and they have sometimes been abandoned in the field by houndsmen. When they are not being used as hunting tools, many hounding dogs spend most of their lives in kenneled confinement, suffering the abuse of neglect. Furthermore, animal agencies report significant challenges with hunting hounds, including resources spent caring for injured dogs not reclaimed by their houndsmen owners, and difficulties in re-homing them.

If you are a California veterinarian, it’s not too late to help move SB 1221 forward; your professional opinion carries significant weight. You can read more background information about hound hunting here. And please contact your Assembly representatives to encourage them to vote "Yes" on the measure. Make sure to mention that you are both a constituent and a veterinarian. Your support will help safeguard California’s wildlife, as well as help protect the health and welfare of hunting dogs by ending the inhumane and unnecessary practice of hound hunting.