I recently heard about the couple and their puppy who were attacked by bear “hound” hunting dogs this past October on public land. I hope that the Legislature will take up the hounding issue this coming session. Sadly, hounds can be run all year and training seasons occur when bears, raccoons, bobcats and other animals are tending to and nursing their young.

For those happily unaware about what hounding involves – it’s where a hunter allows a pack of hounds to run, chase (and more often than not, repeatedly bite and rip apart), take down or tree wild animals. “Hounders” sit in their trucks, while their dogs, on GPS collars, run miles until the GPS shows the dogs are staying in one spot on a target. They then drive (as much as they can) and walk to where the dogs are. This may be hours later.

Beyond the abhorrent cruelty to wildlife and horror for the animals who fall victims to hounding, and the poor treatment and neglect of the hounds, hounding poses a serious safety risk for people.

Vermont statutes stipulate that a hound hunter must be “in control” of their dogs. Under current law, GPS collars meet the criteria. A GPS collar is a locator collar, not a “control” mechanism. Knowing the approximate location of your dogs is not maintaining control over them. No one - regardless of how brilliant they may be - has control of any dog, no less, a pack of them, when that dog is visually out of sight.

The type of training hunting hounds endure is not safe for the public or for dogs. Dogs used for hounding are tools and put at risk. They are punishment or corrective-based trained, very much like how dogs are trained to “dog-fight.” They are often killed when they are no longer useful and, when not “hunting,” live year-round in outside kennels and cages.

The ideal “objective” of hounding is that the hounds chase, corner and attack the right target/s. But this is unreliable, and actually quite impossible, since they are unsupervised and not anywhere near their owners.

Minimally, there should be legislation that specifically states that if hounding is to be legal, the hounds must be within verbal command and eyesight of their owner. If Fish and Wildlife cannot figure out how to do this, then the activity should be banned entirely.

Alana Stevenson

Charlotte

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