Chrys Anderson, who lives in Igo in Shasta County and has owned and rescued coonhounds for 40 years, is responding to the April 15 Viewpoints article "Bill to curtail use of dogs misguided," which said, "Hunting bears with hounds is not, as the Humane Society would have you believe, a lazy man's hunt. Hunters follow the sound of hounds over ridge and canyon, often for miles. Most say it is the most physically demanding hunting they've ever done."
I am 61 and have always lived in rural and remote areas of California where cougars, bears and bobcats are common, but ironically my favorite breed of dog, the coonhound, has been the biggest threat to my farm animals. While wild predators have never touched my livestock, wayward hounds have attacked everything from cats and chickens to horses, and they kill many wild animals, such as deer.
Where do these dogs come from? They are turned loose by hunters and are supposed to track and tree bears and bobcats, but they can end up anywhere and kill other animals.
I have written to the Legislature to voice support for Senate Bill 1221, authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, that would end the use of hounds to hunt bears and bobcats. Many bear hunting states like Montana have banned hunting with hounds for ethical and public safety reasons, and California should join them.
Letting a pack of hounds run loose and unsupervised may have seemed acceptable at one time, but hounds are causing more trouble to more people. Hounds killed 16 deer near my house recently and also chased a horse into my backyard. Our fencing stops livestock, not hounds. It doesn't matter that the hunts start on public land open to hunting; hounds can pass through or end up on private property. I have never known the owners of hounds to pay for the damage or vet bills they cause.
Authorities always say the same thing: shoot the dogs. And that is what my neighbors do. But it isn't the hounds' fault they're there. It is an outdated law that allows hunters to use hounds for what they call sport. I don't think any person with an ounce of empathy could send out a pack of hounds to chase an animal to exhaustion and think it was anything but the worst kind of cruelty.
I love these dogs. My first dog 40 years ago was a black and tan coonhound a house pet for 16 years who earned an obedience degree. When we bought our house 20 years ago, we found an emaciated black and tan coonhound chained out back with no food or shelter, and bear bait hanging from the trees.
Chasing bobcats and bears is not a safe occupation for a dog. When hounds are lost or injured, they are sometimes abandoned and will chase deer or livestock. Over the years, lost hounds that have made it to our local Humane Society have had deep gashes in their sides, or their pads run off their feet. Despite wearing expensive radio collars, they are rarely claimed. Hounds injured in fights with wild animals sometimes don't get the veterinary care they need; one hunter told me he could not afford his sport if he didn't sew up his hounds himself.
I don't consider using hounds to be hunting at all. I am fed up with seeing thin and injured hounds that are covered with ticks, have heartworm and are left in the woods or unclaimed at shelters. I don't like seeing dead and dying wildlife and domestic animals left behind by these "hunters" who meant to kill bears and bobcats.
Hounding of predators has brought misery to enough people and animals, and it is time to put an end to it. Please call your state legislators and ask them to vote yes on SB 1221.