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July 2, 2012

The Humane Society of the United States Applauds California Assembly Committee’s Passage of Legislation to Prohibit Bear and Bobcat Hounding

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the California Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee for voting 8 to 4 to pass Senate Bill 1221, sponsored by Senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, to enact a moratorium on the inhumane and unsporting practice of bear and bobcat hounding. S.B. 1221 passed the California Senate by a vote of 22 to 15 in May.  It fell one vote short of passage at a committee hearing last week, and passed today on a reconsideration vote.

Hounding involves fitting dogs with high‐tech radio devices that allow bear and bobcat trophy hunters to monitor the dogs' movement remotely. Dogs are released to chase frightened wild animals often for miles, across all types of habitat, including forests, private property, and into national parks. Dogs pursue their target until the exhausted animal climbs a tree to escape or turns to confront the dog pack. The trophy hunter then kills his cornered prey, often shooting the animal off a tree branch at point-blank range.

“Hounding is inhumane to the dogs and wildlife, and violates the hunting principle of fair chase.  This legislation makes California as humane as Montana was in 1921 when that state banned bear hounding,” said Senator Lieu, “I am grateful to Chairman Huffman and the committee for voting through this legislation.”

“Hounding bears and bobcats is an inhumane practice inconsistent with the values of Californians.  These values matter when it comes to hunting and hounding is a relic,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The Humane Society of the United States, during his testimony to the committee in support of S.B. 1221 at last week’s hearing.  “Thank you to Chairman Huffman and the members of the committee who voted to close a major loophole in California’s otherwise strong animal protection laws.”

At the bill’s initial hearing on June 26, the committee also discussed conceptual framework for amending S.B. 1221 to allow the California Fish and Game Commission, with a four-fifths majority, to revisit the prohibition on bear and bobcat hounding following an extensive study of hounding, and if the findings revealed no significant harm to target and non-target wildlife, dogs, and the public, including property owners and animal shelters.

Committee members voting today to pass S.B. 1221 were Chairman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, Assemblymembers Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, Nora Campos, D-San Jose, Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, Mike Gatto, D-Burbank, Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, Ricardo Lara, D-South Gate and Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

Voting against S.B. 1221 were Assemblymembers Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Brian W. Jones, R-Santee.

Facts:

  • Fourteen states—including Montana, Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania and Oregon—allow bear hunting but prohibit hounding. Montana’s wildlife management officials consider prohibiting hounding a feature of the state’s “fair chase” principles.
  • A statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. in 2011 reveals that 83 percent of California voters oppose allowing packs of dogs to chase and kill bears – with 75 percent of voters saying they would support a statewide ballot measure to end this trophy hunting method that puts bears, dogs and other wildlife in jeopardy of serious harm, suffering and death.
  • S.B. 1221 would make California the 15th state to prohibit the hounding of bears and the 14th state to ban the hounding of bobcats.
  • Dogs can be struck by vehicles, die from dehydration or as a result of violent confrontations with wildlife, and many are abandoned, which puts a strain on local animal shelters.
  • S.B. 1221 is co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Senators. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Leland Yee, D-South San Francisco and Assemblymembers Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada-Flintridge, Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.
  • Thousands of Californians including wildlife advocates, ranchers, hunters and landowners have written or called in support of S.B. 1221, as have dozens of animal protection, wildlife rehabilitation and animal sheltering organizations including The HSUS, Sierra Club California, ASPCA, State Humane Association of California, the Bear League, and Wildcare.
  • The HSUS conducted an analysis of California Department of Fish and Game law enforcement reports from 2007-2012 and found more than 500 incidents related to illegal hounding activities and bear and bobcat poaching.  The poaching incidents included houndsmen killing bears to illegally sell parts of the animals on the black market, houndsmen trespassing, poaching bear cubs, hounds attacking livestock and cruelty to hounds. Many of the poaching incidents were also associated with narcotics charges and other illegal activity by houndsmen with prior felony convictions. 

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson, 240-672-8397; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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