I have always loved coonhounds: American black and tan, bluetick, redbone, plott, treeing walker and English are all breeds of coonhounds recognized and registered by the United Kennel Club. When I was young there were more coonhounds in America than any other pure breed of dog, but most coonhounds lived in rural areas.
My best dog ever was a black and tan coonhound; an obedience trained house pet for 16 years. I've spent 40 years volunteering for dog rescue groups and animal shelters and coonhounds are consistently the most neglected dogs.
I support Senate Bill 1221 which would end the use of coonhounds to hunt bears and bobcats in California. Hunting bears with hounds is already illegal in two-thirds of states, including Montana. I am not against hunting; I am trying to save hounds from a life of misery and protect all the non-targeted livestock, pets and deer killed by wayward hounds each year.
Coonhounds have great endurance and a determined obsession to trail for miles. When you turn a pack of hounds loose you have little control of where they will end up or what they will kill. Any animal that cannot climb a tree will be ripped apart by the hounds. It is hard to break coonhounds from killing deer. It doesn't matter that the hunts start on public land open to hunting or private land with permission, hounds often pass through or end up on private property where permission has not been obtained.
We live on open livestock range and our fencing only stops livestock, not hounds. Hounds have attacked my cats, chickens and a horse. When I am trying to stop hounds from killing my animals it is dangerous and beyond frustrating. I have never known the owners of hounds to pay for the damage or vet bills they cause.
Hounds have killed a lot of deer in my neighborhood. Authorities always say the same thing: Shoot the dogs. When we bought our house 20 years ago, the previous owner had an emaciated black and tan coonhound chained out back with no food or shelter and bear bait hanging from the trees. Like disposable equipment, most coonhounds are born and live in a kennel without basic care and never see the inside of a house or car. Because most coonhounds don't get handled and socialized as puppies, they are often timid with people. It is normal for hounds to be thin, covered with ticks, and test positive for heartworm. When hounds are lost or injured, they are often abandoned. Even hounds wearing radio collars are rarely claimed from shelters and are usually euthanized.
Being a hound chasing bobcats and bears is not a safe occupation. My parents' German shepherd killed a bobcat, but was shredded and died despite extensive veterinary care. Hounds injured in fights with wild animals often don't get the veterinary care they need; one hunter told me he could not afford his sport if he didn't sew up his hounds himself.
Houndsmen like to talk about tradition, but all I see is cruelty. I don't believe using radio collars and shooting an exhausted animal trapped in a tree can be called "hunting". It is time for California to join most other states and end the use of coonhounds to kill bears and bobcats. Please call your state legislators and ask them to vote yes on SB 1221.