The Agriculture Wildlife sub-committee began debate this week on a bill that would ban hunting dogs from crossing property lines without permission. The committee room was packed with concerned citizens, unlike other more sparsely attended hearings that focused on school budget cuts, etc. In fact, more citizens showed up for this hearing than attended the impeachment resolution debate. Most of the people were hunters who use Beagles and Walker Hounds. A few property owners came to complain about the dogs and their owners whom they term as “renegade hunters.”
Up in Blue Ridge, I frequently have Beagles running through my back yard in pursuit of something. I have always admired the way that they stay focused on the task at hand (unlike some Legislators that I know.) They never stop to socialize (again, unlike some Legislators that I know.) As I sat in the meeting, I kept trying to figure out how to make Beagles recognize property lines but finally determined that you cannot legislate against instinct.
UPDATE – The bill came up for a vote before the full Agriculture Committee. It seemed that most of the legislators would be in support of the ban. Davey Hiott from Pickens made a strong hunting heritage speech against the bill and I pointed out that the minimum$500 fine per trespassing dog seemed an extreme punishment, especially since the dogs would not actually have to pay it. Debate on the bill was adjourned and it was sent back to sub-committee.
UPDATE – This bill was returned to subcommittee last and debate was taken up again around 7pm. Several hunters continued to voice their concerns about this bill being more of an attack on hunting than trying to protect private property rights. The subcommittee (of which I am not a member) voted to amend the bill to exclude dogs that are used for bear hunting and to cap the fine at $1000. The bill should come back up in full committee the week beginning 21 February.
UPDATE – This bill finally came before full committee on March 4 and passed by a voice vote. Several of us did speak out against the bill but were defeated. The bill will be taken up by the full House and I expect it to ultimately fail.