New California Law Bans Hunting with Dogs

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Beginning Jan. 1 it became illegal to use packs of dogs to chase, corner, and ultimately shoot down bears and bobcats in California. Backers of the law say it's not only unfair to the hunted animals but also potentially dangerous and borderline abusive to the dogs.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1221 into law in September, banning the use of hounds to hunt bears and bobcats, the Huffington Post reported. The practice involves unleashing packs of trained dogs to track down, chase, and tree bears. Once cornered, hunters can then shoot the animals.

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Seventeen states still permit the use of dogs to hunt bears, while 15 ban hunting hounds. In the remaining 18 states, it is illegal to hunt bears at all. In California, bear hunting season was closed early when the allotted number of licensed kills - 1,700 - was reached. Preliminary data puts the number of those kills tracked by dogs at less than half.

It is a sport with a long, robust history, and hunting enthusiasts argue that the new ban impedes on a legacy of tradition. They claim they much prefer the chase aspect of the hunt, and that bears and bobcats are often released.

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The Humane Society of the United States believes otherwise, and supporters of the bill maintain that it is intended to protect not only California's bear and bobcat populations, but the hunting dogs as well. Using a pack of dogs to run down another animal can be seen as unfair, and once a bear or bobcat is in a tree, it's not a shot a hunter is likely to miss. What's more, in confrontations between dogs and game, dogs are often mauled or thoroughly exhausted by the hunt. When it comes to hound hunting, it seems that all animals involved face unnecessary risk and abuse.

The sport is similar to English fox hunting, which was banned in different parts of the United Kingdom starting in 2002.

Do you agree with the ban? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

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