Letter to the editor: Hound hunting for the few at expense of many

There is a bill in the House, H. 172, that will ban bear hounding and I ask that everyone support it. There is also a bill, H. 316, that I hope can be expanded to include control of all dogs used for hounding, not just bear hounds, but hunting dogs who chase and attack foxes, raccoons, bobcats and coyotes, too. I am hoping legislators in both the House and the Senate will step up to the plate.
Hounding is when a bunch of dogs are purposely let loose to chase and attack wild animals. They are unsupervised and are usually miles away from the hound-hunters, who often hang out and sit in their trucks. These hounds run on other people’s property, attack and eviscerate animals (including non-target species), and cause terror to the animals who fall victim to them.
The dogs, themselves, are horribly mistreated. They are mostly kenneled and caged — outdoors, 24/7, unless they are hounding. The training methods are not sophisticated, nor humane. It is legalized dog fighting. Hound hunters purposely send their dogs out to be injured and eviscerated. They egg them on and goad them to fight. A hound’s injuries will not be treated with veterinary care. No individual is going to purposely send their dogs out to fight and then spend thousands on veterinary bills. These dogs are pawns and disposable. They can be punched, kicked, goaded, starved and shot — with no repercussions.
Who is in control of all this? Vermont Fish and Wildlife. Vermont Fish and Wildlife is currently run, not by the Vermont public, but by a small group of pro-hunting, trapping and hounding enthusiasts. Those who head Vermont Fish and Wildlife, and their fans, regularly pose with dead animals and advocate trophy hunting on their social media pages.
The Vermont Legislature has allowed this small group of individuals to regulate themselves, with no oversight, and with dire consequences. In October 2019, an experienced hiking couple and their dog were attacked by a pack of hunting hounds for over 45 minutes. There was no hound hunter in the vicinity. There were no laws broken in Vermont, which gave this poor couple and their dog, all of whom sustained injuries, little recourse.
I’ve been an animal behaviorist, professionally, for 18 years now. I specialize in behavior problems in dogs and cats. I work with aggressive and reactive dogs, in a humane way, and implement training methods and techniques based on science and animal cognition, not brawn. Nobody has control of any dog, if that dog is visually out of sight and hearing distance of the owner or handler.
Hound hunters do not maintain control over their dogs and are not legally required to. Vermont Fish and Wildlife and hound hunters claim there is control because hounds are on GPS collars. A GPS collar is not a “control” mechanism. Pet and companion dogs are usually far better trained, socialized and well-behaved than hunting hounds. Again, these dogs are used for animal fighting. They are not beloved family pets or companions.
Hounders, and those at Vermont Fish and Wildlife, will say they are protecting wildlife and Vermonters from bears and other wild animals and practicing conservation. This is blatantly untrue. Homeowners and Vermont non-hunting residents are constantly harassed by hounders and have no legal recourse.
If hounders and hunters regulate themselves, how is there any oversight or enforcement? If there are game wardens who don’t ethically like how their bosses operate, what are they supposed to do? The Legislature needs to take action and be responsible. The fact that hunters can send dogs out to chase and harass wildlife with no supervision is outrageous.
Hounding is a recreational sport practiced by a few. It has no place in conservation. It is a threat to public safety and disrespectful to Vermont landowners, residents, pets, livestock, the wild animals who fall victim to hounds, and the poor couple who were attacked last year for nearly an hour. Hounding needs to banned permanently.
Alana Stevenson

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