The rabbits are on the run again in New Hampshire, and sporting dog owners and clubs in the Granite State couldn’t be happier.
On Jan. 25, the state’s House Committee on Fish and Game and Marine Resources voted down a bill that would have prohibited live trapping wild snowshoe hares or rabbits with the purpose of using them for dog training, to stock training sites, or in field trials.
In an 18-1 committee vote, HB 1308 was determined to be “Inexpedient to Legislate,” all but ensuring the end of the bill’s chances for a House vote. The bill will officially die when the House votes to adopt the committee’s report.
Joseph Mullin, the northeast states assistant manager for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), sent an appeal to the state’s Fish and Game Department in advance of the vote advocating for the bill to be killed.
“Hunting with dogs is a long-standing tradition in New Hampshire that is an important component of the state’s cultural fabric,” Mullin said, “and it contributes to the state’s economy and conservation funding. Curbing their training by restricting the use of wild rabbits and hares is a proxy affront on hunting and many other outdoor sporting opportunities.”
In Maryland, the training of sporting dogs is currently under attack. The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a hearing on SB 44 on Jan. 19. The proposed legislation would severely limit the amount of time a person may allow their dog to be outside. It is crucial that sporting dogs be acclimated to the weather conditions they will likely encounter in the field.
Mullin again advocated for the sporting dog community, stating that while the bill does include exceptions for dogs actively engaged in hunting, livestock herding or guarding, sledding, sporting, and training, it fails to close a loophole that would essentially render those exceptions moot.
“[The bill] makes no exception to allow owners to leave those special-purpose dogs outside to become more acclimated to the temperatures they will face in the field or while working,” Mullin wrote in a letter to the committee.
“When a dog’s adaptability to these conditions is lessened as a result of increased time spent indoors,” he added, “it is more likely to experience a shock to its system when it is exposed to a cold morning in the duck blind, cutting through ice, or wading through chest-high water.”
The bill is currently still being considered in committee. No date for a vote has been scheduled.
New Jersey and South Carolina Sporting Dog Updates
In June of last year, New Jersey introduced a bill in an Assembly committee that drew fire from American Kennel Club-affiliated clubs in New Jersey, along with breeders, owners, and performance dog enthusiasts.
The original language of the bill would have prohibited the “harassing or taking” of wildlife at competitive events, ultimately putting the brakes on officially sanctioned sporting, hound, earthdog, and herding events.
The CSF opposes the bill and says A-1365 “would usurp the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s authority by prohibiting hunting contests and thereby reduce opportunities for New Jersey’s sportsmen and women.”
While in committee, an amendment was added to the legislation to better specify the intent of the bill, which was to ban contests that are judged by tallies of wildlife killed. The amendment removed any language that would implicate AKC-sanctioned events.
“Legislatively mandating wildlife management decisions, thereby circumventing state fish and wildlife agency authority, sets a dangerous precedent,” the CSF says on its site. “Our nation’s state fish and wildlife agencies have successfully and sustainably managed fish and wildlife populations and healthy ecosystems for decades. These agencies find success because they utilize the best biological and sociological data available to determine what regulations and conservation efforts are appropriate.”
The bill has passed an Assembly committee vote with the amendments included but has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the state’s General Assembly.
Similar legislation was passed recently in Maryland and in New York in 2019. Both states now prohibit contests where the sole purpose is killing certain animals for prizes or money. Virginia is considering a bill that would prohibit most hunting competitions.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, legislation is being considered that would remove certain exemptions for hunting dogs under state cruelty laws while protecting the use of “recognized and responsible training techniques and devices.” The legislation doesn’t specify the techniques or devices other than that they are for hunting dogs.
The bill is currently with the state’s Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. No hearing or vote has been scheduled yet.