Time To Re-Evaluate Hunting With Hounds

Marlene A. Condon

In the wake of Michael Vick’s conviction for animal cruelty because of his participation in dog-fighting, it is time to re-evaluate the old Virginia tradition of hunting with hounds. This activity, which is sometimes cruel to the hounds themselves and always cruel to the wildlife being chased, negatively impacts many species — some of which we are losing in Virginia. It is time for this pastime to come to an end.

(Picture of Almond Joy by www.coonhoundrescue.comVisit them to adopt a coonhound)

Game birds, such as the American Woodcock and the Northern Bobwhite quail, nest on the ground. According to “Virginia’s Birdlife” (published by the Virginia Society of Ornithology), decades-long breeding bird surveys have shown declines in the numbers of these birds, precipitously in the case of quail.

Hunting dogs (and pet dogs, which also need to be restricted) undoubtedly wreak havoc with ground nesters by disturbing nesting activity. And this impact is likely felt by nongame ground-nesting species, as well. The Eastern Meadowlark, a once common bird with a beautiful song, has suffered “significant statewide declines since the 1960s.”

Lack of habitat — the result of too many people and too much unnatural landscaping — is a main contributor to such declines. Wildlife is being forced into smaller and smaller areas because of overreaching human development. Allowing hunting dogs to run uncontrolled through these limited-in-size areas undoubtedly adds insult to injury.

Additionally, Virginia law has placed burdens on landowners that rightfully belonged on the hunters, which has turned numerous landowners against hunting altogether. As a result, more private lands are closed to hunting and more dogs are let loose to chase wildlife on state lands that may be the final refuges for some of our disappearing species.

Last but not least, abandoned hunting dogs are not an uncommon sight in Virginia. These hounds are often hit in traffic or, perhaps worse, suffer uncontrollable shaking as blood sugar levels drop due to starvation. Too weak to walk, they finally collapse and can’t get up, awaiting whatever fate befalls them. Can anyone deny this is cruelty inflicted by hunters upon man’s “best friend”?

And what about the wild animals that are absolutely terrified while being chased — either just for hound training or to their deaths? Shouldn’t compassionate humans care about such cruelty to them as well?

Unfortunately, many people do not realize that there is absolutely no difference between animals that are born wild and animals born into domestication. Wild animals suffer the same pain and terror as any living being. And, just as is the case with pets of whatever kind, each individual has its own unique personality.

Travis Quirk, a University of Saskatchewan graduate student who shot skunks when he was growing up but who now studies them, could verify this. As reported in National Wildlife Magazine online, Quirk had to hand-raise a litter of orphaned kits (baby skunks) one year, feeding them with a syringe. He is quoted as saying, “They were like kittens, playing games, following me around. Just sweethearts.”

Making wildlife suffer the sheer terror of being chased by hounds solely for someone’s enjoyment is an activity that has gone on for far too long. If you wouldn’t find it acceptable for your pet to endure this terror, then you should find it unacceptable for wildlife, too.

There are many reasons to silence the baying of hunting hounds — even if that baying has been a source of music to some hunters’ ears.

Constituents can contact the chairman of a committee studying this issue by writing to Rick Busch at the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, 4010 West Broad St., P.O. Box 11104, Richmond, VA 23230. Or you can send an e-mail to him at dgifweb@dgif.virginia.gov.

Marlene Condon is author of “The Nature-Friendly Garden.” She lives in Crozet, VA.


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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561