This may be the last year bear hunters in South Carolina can utilize bear baying to train their hunting dogs, with legislation to ban the practice expected to come before the State Legislature in January.
From this story in the New York Times:
Later this month, camouflage-clad hunters and packs of dogs will set off across the densely forested foothills and rushing creeks here in western South Carolina for an age-old rite of fall: bear-hunting season.
_”It’s one of the toughest, most exhausting sports there is,” said Roy Stiles, 64, of Travelers Rest, a longtime hunter and retired college professor. “You can track a bear for 15 miles before you tree it and shoot it — and then you still have to drag it out of the woods.” But this may be the last year that hunters anywhere in the country can prepare their dogs for these grueling outings by using an obscure practice called bear baying that dates back at least to the 1800s. Under criticism from animal rights groups, South Carolina is debating a legal ban on the practice of restraining a captive black bear while hunting dogs surround it and bark feverishly. The training, still popular in rural areas of this state, is designed to replicate the conditions of a wild bear encounter and to familiarize dogs with the animal’s behavior.
“This is uncivilized and barbaric to a totally defenseless bear,” said Joel Lourie, a Democratic state senator who said he planned to introduce a ban on the activity when the State Legislature reconvenes in January.
Baying — so called because of the dogs’ howling at the bear — is protected by a loophole in South Carolina law. No other states allow it, according to animal rights experts. The practice, which does not involve shooting bears, came under widespread public criticism in recent weeks after the Humane Society of the United States released hidden-camera footage of four events at which dogs appear to have bitten bears. The videos show grainy images of dogs snarling and lunging at bears tethered on short leashes in metal cages, as dozens of people watch.
Since hunters in other states seem to be able to train their dogs without bear baying, do you think South Carolina should be allowed to continue the practice?