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Response to the HSUS Attack on Hunting with Hounds
Posted on 04/09/2010 in Your Dog, Your Rights.

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Some of you may have noticed that I had no column last month. There are several reasons behind it, but mainly I have been trying to gather research and also stories and comments from all of you, the true experts on hound hunting, in order to refute the gross misstatements and baseless allegations made by HSUS in their campaign against hound hunting. I would like to state here that I really appreciate hearing from the hunters who took the time to write or call me. I can’t stress enough the importance that all dog owners work together on these issues, and set our differences aside to protect our rights as dog owners before its too late! It’s the grass roots level that’s most important to build the movement, and the grass roots level is all of YOU.
Many of the so-called ‘facts’ HSUS has tried to make in its argument against were covered in Cindy Cooke’s column last month. As I don’t have a background in hounds and hunting, I worked with Todd Kellam in reviewing the ‘facts’ and getting the real answers. To begin with, while most of the HSUS fact sheets are about either hunting bear or deer with hounds, HSUS lumps hound hunting as a whole, and appears to be applying all of their ‘facts’ to all hound hunters. On their “Fact Sheet on Hound Hunting,” they define hound hunting as “using packs of dogs to chase bears, bobcats, or cougars to exhaustion.” Obviously this is inaccurate, as hounds are used to hunt many different prey in many different forms. I think you all know that more than anyone and there’s no need to go further. The ‘fact’ sheet also states that “dogs pick up the animal’s scent and go chasing after her.” Notice how they refer to the animal as a ‘her’ to garner more sympathy than referring to the animal as ‘it’? It’s just another way that they twist words. While almost everything contained in the HSUS fact sheets are either blatantly incorrect or inaccurate, I’m going to cover the most outright lies.

“Before the Chase: Teaching Bloodlust”

HSUS states that some hunters “develop a bloodlust in their dogs by allowing them to tear apart bear cubs or cougar kittens.”According to Todd Kellam, this is virtually unheard of. Marc Brogan, a proud hound owner from Minnesota, simply stated “unbelievable” in response to this ‘fact.’ The fact sheets also say that mother bears are routinely killed and as a result orphaned bear cubs die. Most bear hunters are very skilled at identifying the difference between a boar and a sow, and are conscientious about shooting sows in the spring. Contrary to HSUS statements, they DO have ethics. HSUS not only criticizes spring bear hunting but also fall bear hunting; they state that bears hunted in the fall are in early stages of hibernation and therefore cannot run far. Robert Johnson of Georgia stated that hibernating animals “are more likely to be highly active just before that season, hunting and eating to store energy to carry them through the winter.” Todd Kellam also pointed out that the bear hunting seasons are set and regulated by biologists, and the number of permits given are based on the bear population. If HSUS finds the seasons to be so unfair (which they are not) then they should take it up with DNR biologists.

“Hound Hunting and Crime”

HSUS claims that hound hunting leads to crime. According to HSUS, hound hunters routinely trespass on private property. Robert Johnson refutes that by stating: “Here in Georgia, it was the hunters that helped write tougher trespassing laws to protect themselves and the landowners. True hunters leave the land owner’s property just as they found it, free of trash etc....and always have permission to be where they are when they are there.” HSUS also ludicrously claims that hound hunters are more likely to poach. Marc Brogan of Minnesota responds: “The poaching comment couldn’t be further from the truth. I know of no other hunting group that routinely practices catch and release more than houndsmen....I know personally, I harvest less than 10% of animals I successfully pursue a year. Therefore why would I ‘poach’ an animal?” Also in the category of crime, HSUS claims that hounds are inclined to chase and attack livestock. Robert Johnson: “hounds attacking livestock is funny too. Watch a pack of hounds running some wild game get into a pasture full of cows and see what happens. I bet you anything you want to bet, the hounds are not doing the attacking....livestock animals are rarely attacked by dogs. More likely the attacks come from coyotes.”

“Hounding the Animal Shelters”

HSUS makes the claim that the animal shelters are burdened and overrun by abandoned hunting dogs; however in making this claim they do not specify hounds. There are many, many breeds of hunting dogs....but since their ‘fact sheets’ are about hounds we’ll continue along that line. The fact sheet also states that “as much as 90 percent of the dogs” taken into animal shelters are abandoned hunting dogs. However they do not cite where this alleged data comes from. HSUS started this campaign out of targeting Virginia, so I looked at several animal shelter listings on Petfinder.com in Virginia. Many of the shelters had no dogs resembling hounds, while some shelters had one or two identified as hounds that in my book were either mixes or not hounds at all. Case in point were two dogs listed as Redbone Coonhounds, but appeared to me to be lab mixes with the fox-red coloring. As HSUS does not give a source for their allegations that hunting dogs (hounds) are overwhelming shelters, I’m pretty sure it’s a bunch of BS. Now if by “hunting dogs” they mean to broadly include pet labs and lab mixes that have never been hunted but are a hunting breed, then yes, that is the most common breed or mix found in shelters, simply by virtue of the popularity of labs in the US.

“Life of a Hunting Dog”

HSUS says that hunting dogs are “often viewed as something like hunting equipment rather than members of the family” and “are neglected and abused.” They go on to say that dogs get no exercise when they are not hunting. They further allege that “dogs only get out of their kennels about five weekends a year,” and that “hound hunters believe that dogs will hunt better when they are hungry and admit to only feeding them every few days...hunting dogs are frequently severely emaciated.” Now, while there are bad apples in every aspect of dogs (there are a lot of bad so-called rescue groups too!) from my personal experience this is not the norm. There are exceptions in any group. Hound owners take great pride in their hounds, and invest a lot of time and money into taking care of them. Yes, most hounds are not kept inside the home, but live in kennels and runs and are protected from the elements. Hounds are also kept in condition in off season or it would be hard to hunt them when the hunt season rolls around again. Houndswoman Laura Bell sums up her feelings on this fact: “To say that people treat hunting dogs any differently because hunting season is in or out is ridiculous. I own dogs because I like them, not because I need them solely for the purpose of pursuing game. I worry over them as I do my family and friends; heck I probably talk to my dogs more than I do some of my friends. Coon season ended January 31st and I’m still feeding, training, and caring for my dogs as I’ve done since the day I brought them home.”

These allegations made by HSUS regarding the supposed abuse and neglect of hounds were what generated the most outrage from all of you who know the truth. Following are some responses:

  • Melanie Hampton of Oregon:

    “People believe we starve our dogs. Not true. I myself have lived off of mac and cheese more than once so my dogs can get their food...All of my dogs are a part of my family...My hounds are all housebroke and do spend a lot of time in the house. I never buy great furniture as I always have a hound or two sleeping on them...I also see that most houndsmen know more about the care of their dogs than the average pet owner.”

  • Wesley Wilkins:

    “I think as much of my dogs as I do my kids! My dogs eat twice a day...I also cook meat from the freezer for them when its time to clean it out...I do not hunt them when it is too hot nor do I hunt them when there is a crust on the snow because it is hard on their feet...I even take them with me to the river in the summer when I go for a swim or just to let them cool off. They love to ride down to the local store with me in the evenings.”

  • Rob McMillan III of Maryland:

    “My dogs are thought of as part of the family. Everyone takes care of them. I feel this is also a good lesson for my children to help take care of the dogs...They enjoy hunting and showing the dogs...People from the HSUS have no clue about most hound owners and how they feel or take care of their hounds. They certainly have never felt the pain and loss when your ole hunting buddy for the past 10 to 15 years is gone and you have to bury them.”

  • Barry Green of Alabama:

    “I spend thousands of dollars a year on top quality feed, vet visits, sanitary kennel supplies, and equipment to make sure my dogs are safe and return home safely from hunting!”

  • Mark Miller of California:

    "I have four bluetick hounds I love very much. I hardly ever carry a gun when I run them on bear, coon, or bobcat. We have treed a lot of game just to release it to run another day. It makes me sick when I hear the HSUS portray hound hunters in a bad light.”

  • Danny Sammons of West Virgina:

    “I guess what I am trying to say is that I might be a good ole country boy who does not have a great education but my daddy taught me to love your hound like you would love your kid and he said his daddy taught him that and so on.”

HSUS also makes the claim several times that hound hunting is for the lazy, and that the dogs are “fitted with high-tech radio telemetry devices” so the hunters “can follow along at their leisure.” Again, nothing is further from the truth. The tracking collars are intended so hunters can find their hounds in the woods when they can no longer hear them, and so dogs do NOT get lost and end up in shelters. HSUS contradicts itself in saying that hound hunters are lazy and that’s why they have trackers, yet so many dogs are allegedly filling shelters. This was another claim that all of you found outrageous and ridiculous.
  • Barry Green of Alabama:

    “The Garmin telemetry I run on my dogs is for their safety, NOT SO I CAN SIT BACK AND LET THEM DO THE WORK! It’s to keep them safe, out of harm’s way, to keep from getting on property that I do not have permission to hunt and mostly to help return my hounds home! I’ve been hunting for 30 years and I have never abandoned a dog after hunting season, nor have I ever shot a dog for being old or not hunting the way I want him to!”

  • Marc Brogan of Minnesota:

    “If one of our dogs has gone missing, I guarantee we are out searching for it. This is almost a non-issue now days because of all the tracking and locating equipment available to hunters.”

  • Wesley Wilkins:

    “When I go out hunting I don’t just leave my dogs in the woods if they get too far away. That’s why I purchased a Garmin GPS tracking system and, by the way, these systems are NOT CHEAP. I do not come home without my dogs. I have too much time and money invested in them.”

  • Robert Johnson of Georgia:

    “ Houndsmen do not abandon their loved ones. Fact is, most spend many dollars on tracking equipment to find their hounds, and ride many hours and miles to ensure these dogs come home safely. Every true houndsman would prefer to carry his pets home with him at the end of every hunt.”

  • Rob McMillan III of Maryland:

    “I have a tracking system and GPS for my hounds. That was a very expensive purchase, and I feel it was worth it. This helps keep my hounds safe and assures that I will be bringing them home at night. I can keep them away from roads, railroads, and off of posted ground. It they will get lost they will be located. I am not the lazy hunter I walk to my hounds and back to my truck.”

While HSUS has previously had other issues on their agenda that indirectly affect hound owners, this is the first time they have directly gone on the attack against hound owners. As most of America falsely believes that HSUS is an umbrella organization for animal shelters across the country, Americans may also accept the lies HSUS puts out there as ‘fact.’ It’s up to you all, as hound owners, to stand up and fight for the hounds you all love! As houndsmen (and women!), it’s up to you to refute the HSUS allegations not only through your own words, but through your actions with your hounds. I know I’m beating a dead horse here in repeating myself, but I cannot stress enough how important it is for all dog owners from all walks of dog life to band together in the fight; strength is in numbers. While there are endless different groups of dog owners, from dock jumpers to hound hunters to agility to dog showers, we all have a common interest—none of us want our rights as dog owners to be dictated by nonsensical animal rights proponents. Breed specific legislation (BSL) is a good example. While you as hound hunters may not care about pit bull ownership being restricted or outlawed, pit bull owners are still dog owners that are just as passionate about their dogs as you are, and can always use your support. Couldn’t you use their support with this issue? After all, isn’t anti-hound legislation just another form of BSL?