Hunting dogs are trained in various ways including the use of a live animal of whatever type the dog is being trained to hunt (or at least an animal similar to that type). For example, a retriever might be trained to pick up a duck who has been shackled. A terrier might be sent down a tunnel which has caged rats at the end. Hounds might chase a rabbit or fox around a fenced-in area. There are alternatives to using live game in training (lures, dummies, etc.) and many trainers make use of those as well. Some of these faux hunting scenarios are used in competitive events such as field trials.
Bear baying is the term used to describe Plott Hounds (or whatever hound the trainer uses) being trained to bark at a live, chained bear and get him to stand up on his hind legs (so the hunter can get a clean shot, in an actual hunting scenario). You may have come across the term in the news this week due to an HSUS media push on the subject but opponents have been trying to get the practice outlawed for years. John Goodwin of HSUS held a presser in SC yesterday and HSUS released undercover videos of SC bear baying events to the AP. The bear in the videos has reportedly had her claws and some teeth removed. There is no barrier between the dogs and the bear. (I haven’t watched the video and don’t intend to but that is the description I’ve read.)
Before I go on, I want to be perfectly clear that I am opposed to the practice of bear baying (including the bear mutilation that accompanies it) and would be happy to see it made illegal in SC. We have laws against “animal fighting and baiting” but there is a specific provision addressing hunting dogs:
This chapter does not apply to dogs used for the purpose of hunting, including, but not limited to, hunting on shooting preserves or wildlife management areas authorized pursuant to Title 50, or to dogs used in field trials, including events more commonly known as “water races”, “treeing contests”, “coon-on-a-log”, “bear-baying”, or “fox- pen-trials”.
This is why bear baying is legal in SC. However, just one day after the HSUS campaign began:
A South Carolina lawmaker says he will introduce legislation banning a practice known as “bear baying.
So it looks as if the HSUS efforts are seeing an immediate payoff. Of course there are a lot of ifs/ands/buts between this announcement and getting a bill passed. And as I said, I will be glad if bear baying is made illegal.
However, as in so many things, there are shades of grey. Specifically, if bear baying is outlawed, what will be the next hunting dog event targeted? On the one hand, it could be argued that no other events are at risk and SC will never hear from HSUS again on the subject of how dogs are trained using live bait. But on the other hand, and more plausible to my mind, maybe HSUS will see how quickly their campaign garnered political results and will be motivated to expand their targets.
Some of you perhaps feel this would be great because all hunting is cruel. Others might want to outlaw only the bear baying and leave all other dog events intact. Still others might want to pick and choose from the list which ones you’d like stricken and which to keep. But this is all just discussion because you and I do not hunt with dogs in SC. For those who do, as well as those who simply like to participate in the field trial type events with their dogs, I can understand why they’d be concerned. What are your thoughts?