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LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS Opinion: Cheri Shankar: PRO on SB 1221 -- Stop hunters from 'hounding,' and having dogs chase down and kill prey
May 21, 2012
They want to call it hunting, but it's not. It's nothing more than animal torment and killing. I'm referring to "hounding," which is the use of dogs to chase down prey animals, cornering them or sending them up trees where they can be shot at point-blank range.
In California, hounding is used by relatively few people to kill bears and sometimes bobcats.
The combination of medieval ethics and modern radio technology is enough to turn the stomach of most right-thinking hunters and surely everyone else who values dogs and wildlife.
Medieval? Yes indeed. This is blood sport - one animal pitted against another. Often there are bloody, even fatal, confrontations as the chase gets far ahead of the shooter. What chance does a wild animal have against a pack of dogs? If the pack is too small, what chance do the dogs have?
Friends, you cannot look someone in the eye and defend this as "sport" or "sporting."
And how does technology fit in? Well, dogs get fitted with radio-transmitter collars that direct the shooter straight to the target - a doomed animal trembling on a tree branch. Blam.
Belatedly, California is just a few steps away from joining two-thirds of the other states in prohibiting hounding. I urge wildlife fanciers, dog lovers and "fair chase" hunters to call their state lawmakers and voice support for Senate Bill 1221, which would take dogs out of the chase for bears and bobcats. This is no time to be on the sidelines. Please be heard. The state Senate is expected to vote on this as soon as Tuesday.
Already, it's an embarrassment to realize that states like Montana, where hunting is widely practiced and even more widely supported, long ago prohibited hounding. How long ago? For the sake of "fair chase," hounding was outlawed there in 1921 - when a first-class stamp cost 2-cents and Warren Harding was president. Why is California lagging so many decades behind?
If you pay attention to the debate, you'll hear some hunting organizations stumbling awkwardly over their own professed values to defend hounding. If hunters truly think of themselves as stewards of wildlife, they simply cannot justify this kind of grisly activity. And remember, we're talking only about dogs used to chase bears and bobcats, not the entirely different use of dogs for bird hunting
Hounding for bears and bobcats is not a question of "rights"; it is a matter of right vs. wrong.
Hunters using dogs take fewer than half the bears and only a tiny fraction of bobcats legally killed in California. Simply put, hounding is not necessary, only gratuitous. Poachers, however, may tell a different story altogether. Wildlife officials estimate that as many bears are killed illegally as those taken lawfully in the state -- and hounding is a preferred tactic for these criminals.
Last year, a survey by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. found that 83 percent of California voters oppose bear hounding. It's safe to say that the more people know about the hideous details of this undertaking, the stronger their opposition becomes.
Apologists for hounding would have you believe that California is teeming with bears and that hounding is necessary to keep numbers check. This is a cynical and uninformed argument. Actually, hunters reported fewer legal bear kills in 2010 and 2011 compared to previous years. Teeming with bears? Hardly. The fact is, the status of California's bear population is unknown right now. What is known is that bears are under pressure from poachers who are feeding the illegal global trade in bear parts.
The truth is that hounding is wrong by all measures -- not a little wrong, but completely wrong.
Cheri Shankar is a fundraiser and activist based in Beverly Hills. She currently serves on the National Council for Humane Society of the United States and on the National Advisory Board of Union of Concerned Scientists. Her Twitter account is @Bkindtoanimals.