The videos taken last year by animal activists at bear baying events in South Carolina shocked many in the state, who found it hard to believe such an odious practice was still allowed.
The competitions, defended by practitioners as the best way to train dogs to hunt bears, involve securing a bear – often defanged and declawed – and loosing dogs to test their courage and ability to get the bear to bay, or stand up. Dogs are supposed to be pulled away before any contact occurs with the terrified bear, but the videos taken by the Humane Society of the United States showed that bites often occurred. At one event, nearly 300 dogs menaced one bear for four hours.
Now, in response to the outcry provoked by the videos, two bills have been filed in the state Senate to strip the exemption allowing the practice from the state’s Animal Fighting and Baiting Act. As the sponsor of one the bills, Sen Joel Lourie, told The Columbia Star, “South Carolina cannot have the distinction of being the only state where you can chain up a bear and sic dogs on it for sport.”
Most hunters we know would agree. The prolonged torment of an animal for pleasure and money stands squarely in contrast to the honor, principles and respect for nature that most hunters hold dear.
One proposed bill would ban just bear baying, while the other would have a greater effect on Horry County, seeking to ban fox pens as well. The county has about a dozen of these facilities, fenced-in areas in which dogs are set free to chase down foxes kept in the pens.
Whichever bill passes, the bear baying ban is a long overdue action for an activity whose time has long past. But it’s hardly the only uncivilized and cruel exemption left in the state law. We hope lawmakers will turn their attention next to the exception left for “coon on a log” competitions. In these events, a raccoon is chained to a log in the middle of a body of water and hounds race to see which can be first to reach the animal and pull it off the log. Little more than blood sports, events such as these are a black mark on the state’s reputation and we sincerely wish they soon meet their well-deserved end.