Op/Ed

Editorial: Hunting dogs: Finding a solution won’t be easy

VETERINARIANS HAD TO clip away fur on Willow, a poodle-Wheaten terrier mix, to treat the large puncture wounds she received when attacked by a pack of dogs earlier this month in the Green Mountain National Forest near the Goshen-Ripton border.

The story of two hikers and their small dog being attacked by a pack of hunting hound dogs while hiking in the Green Mountain National Forest near the Goshen-Ripton border two weekends ago is as shocking as it is frightening. Frightening because the dogs surrounded and attacked the couple for much of the half hour they were under siege. Shocking because the story is such an outlier. As Game Warden Dale Whitlock said, “I’ve been a game warden since 1996 and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
As repercussions from this incident sugar out, what’s key to keep in mind is that no one is suggesting this incident should pit hunters against hikers. We all understand that hunters and hikers, and others who use the trails, should have equal access to public lands.
What will be at issue is the legal responsibility to maintain control over one’s hunting dogs, and how officials can assure the safety of others against any similar attack.
Readers should know that state regulations allow hunting dogs, usually hounds used in the pursuit of bear, to run free from the direct control of their owners. The hounds, which are equipped with GPS dog colors, typically circle the prey and keep the prey contained (up a tree or otherwise) until the hunters arrive.
The hikers involved in this particular incident are familiar with the area, have hiked in that part of the national forest for 35 years, and have come upon hunting dogs before without incident. In retelling their story, they were bold to make clear they have no argument with hunting or hunters, but also emphasize that neither should they or any other hikers or users of public lands be terrorized by dogs trained to surround their prey and attack.
Few would argue with that premise. Finding a solution, however, is likely to be much more complex.
Angelo Lynn

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