July 2012 Blog Home September 2012

22 posts from August 2012

August 31, 2012

The 'Big Lick' Shows Big Changes Are Needed to Stop Horse Soring

A good number of owners, trainers and others associated with the Tennessee walking horse show industry are engaged in a coordinated effort to cover up illegal “soring”–a practice prohibited by Congress in 1970. Their scheme involves the cruel application of painful irritants and implements and devices to the feet and legs of horses.  It’s done to induce the so-called “Big Lick,” which involves an unnatural, bizarre, and illegally induced high-stepping gait, all for a blue ribbon.

Last night, I went to the Celebration, the world grand championship show for this breed in Shelbyville, Tenn., with The HSUS’s director of equine protection and lifelong horseman, Keith Dane. We saw some flat-shod horses exhibit a normal or natural gait. But seeing those animals only accentuated for us how bizarre it is to see horses with four-inch stacks and heavy chains on their feet, prancing into the show arena, raising their front legs high and unnaturally shifting their weight onto their back legs.

270x240 tn walking horse celebration - chad sisneros
Chad Sisneros/The HSUS
The artificial, high-stepping gait called the "Big Lick."

Attendance seemed way down last night at the Celebration, according to people who have been there for years. In a 25,000-seat arena, there were perhaps only 5,000 people there.

There is one particularly compelling explanation for the low turn-out of horses, riders, and spectators: In May, The HSUS released footage that rocked the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. An HSUS undercover investigator captured one of the most decorated trainers, Jackie McConnell, the former president of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association and a Hall of Fame inductee, on tape applying chemicals onto the legs of horses and cooking them into their flesh. Our investigator also documented McConnell striking horses in the head with a bat or stick (“stewarding”). Ironically, at the time these crimes were committed, he was already under federal disqualification for previous soring activities, but he was still training horses for the show ring, underscoring how porous and weak the current enforcement program is.

Our investigation has roiled the industry and prompted calls for reform. The American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association have said it’s time to end the use of stacks and chains and to do away with industry self-regulation. And today, Barney Davis, a trainer convicted of soring, participated at a press conference with Keith and me, arguing that the only way to get the Big Lick gait is to sore horses. He grew up in the industry, and says that he did the same things every other trainer did.

Of all of the dozens of breeds exhibited in horse shows under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, the agency only deploys officials to check up on Tennessee walking horse shows. Why do they warrant such attention from the federal government?  It’s only because the industry’s abuses were so bad that the Congress had to step in and mandate federal oversight by passing the Horse Protection Act. Yet 42 years later, all of the Big Lick horses are exhibiting the same exaggerated, unnatural, absurd gait.  Abuse has become routine and normal in this industry.

The industry is attacking The HSUS and the USDA, which is charged with enforcing the federal law, because Tennessee walking horse trainers and owners have an economic stake in continuing their cover-up. The industry is fighting the new USDA rule to require that industry inspection organizations impose mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act. 

Last year at the Celebration, USDA swabbed 52 horses for illegal substances used to numb, mask, or sore horses, and every one of them was found in violation of the law. With their attendance declining and the American public disgusted by the illegal soring behavior, what more incentive does the industry need to make real, fundamental, and enduring changes? As this year’s low attendance shows, it's losing the battle of public opinion, in addition to finding itself on the wrong side of the law..

August 30, 2012

H-Couture to Celebrate Fur-Free Fashion

At The HSUS, we confront cruelty to all kinds of animals. We consider the fur trade a great contributor to the amount of cruelty in our world, because it produces so much suffering and for no good reason. People can keep themselves warm and maintain style without using real animal fur, because there are so many great alternatives in the marketplace. The global toll of mink, foxes, bobcats, raccoon dogs, and even dogs and cats is greater than 50 million a year, so it’s no small matter when it comes to human impacts on animals.

Red fox looking up
Celebrate fur-free fashion at H-Couture this Sept. 22.

We are working hard to reduce this suffering and grow the business that trades in outerwear that doesn’t involve fur. And we are creating opportunities to celebrate compassionate leadership in the world of fashion.

One such event will hit the runway on Sept. 22 in Los Angeles. Our first annual H-Couture fashion show highlights the latest in designer menswear and womenswear for conscious living—a rapidly-growing segment of the fashion industry.

H-Couture is a celebration of fashion designers who have animal-friendly values, never work with animal fur, and are blessed with the talent and know-how to be part of the humane economy. 

The Vampire Diaries stars Paul Wesley and Torrey DeVitto will co-host the fur-free fashion show, which will feature designs by John Bartlett, Victoria Bartlett, Marc Bouwer, Kimberly Ovitz, and Charlotte Ronson.

Please join me in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 22 at H-Couture 2012 (tickets are available now). 

August 29, 2012

Contraception on the Agenda for Wildlife Management

As the global human population ticks upward every second and we settle more land and demand more in the way of natural resources, our impact on wildlife will increase. And so, too, will our conflicts with wild creatures. How we manage those conflicts will test our moral intuition, our tolerance, and our ingenuity. One thing is for sure: we’ve got to expand the tool kit to allow for innovative forms of non-lethal wildlife management, in order to serve our needs and to allow animals to survive.

Two wild horses in the grass
Kayla Grams

Over a quarter-century, The HSUS has invested millions in the advancement of wildlife contraception science and technology, as a proactive tool to manage populations in a humane manner. We’ve done a tremendous amount of research and testing, and now we are in the phase of application, whether it’s wild horses on our public lands, elephants in provincial or national parks in South Africa, or deer in communities across the United States.

This week in Jackson Hole, Wyo., The HSUS co-sponsored two conferences on wildlife contraception. The Wild Horse Symposium on Tuesday was a collaboration of The HSUS, Humane Society International, the Annenberg Foundation, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, and it drew together more than 80 stakeholders from government, academia, and the nonprofit sector. It included presentations on the latest scientific and technical developments, the regulatory challenges associated with approval for contraceptive agents, the successful delivery systems for contraception, the economics of wild horse management, and the role of sanctuaries and the nonprofit advocacy community.

It is a real source of pride to me that The HSUS, thanks to the Annenberg Foundation and other supporters, has been able to extend its work on fertility control as a strategy to protect horses and reduce costs to the federal government. The HSUS has been working on wild horse issues at Assateague in the East, in the Pryor Mountains in the West, and elsewhere since the mid-1960s, trying to halt harsh and unacceptable roundups and other manhandling of horses and to promote alternative approaches. That day is here now.

The 7th International Conference on Fertility Control in Wildlife, a three-day event at the same venue, is still in progress, and it represents a meeting of the best and the brightest in the work of securing advancements in the science, ethics, and technology of animal contraception. Our elephant contraception team came through Washington, D.C, on their way to the Wyoming conference, and I heard presentations from them about contraceptive agents, appropriate delivery methods, field testing, population effects, animal welfare implications, social, cultural, and political challenges, and how their work is already saving lives and proving that we can make cruel culling of elephants an obsolete management tool.

On Tuesday evening, the proceedings in Jackson included the presentation of special honors for some of the pioneers in contraception work, notably Jay F. Kirkpatrick, Kim Frank, Robin Lyda, Allen Rutberg, Allison Turner, John Turner, Carl Zimmerman, and The HSUS’s senior vice president for wildlife, John Grandy. Their roles in the promotion and implementation of this approach cannot be overstated.

The field of wildlife fertility control is now about 40 years old, and for various reasons, there is a special role for nonprofit organizations like The HSUS and Humane Society International to play. Wild animals have a rightful place on our planet, and we’ve got to do our best to manage conflicts in ways that are humane, sustainable, and consistent with the values of people throughout the world.

August 28, 2012

SUBWAY Restaurants Condemns Controversial Pig Cages, Will Work with Pork Suppliers to Improve Animal Welfare

The first SUBWAY restaurant opened up in my home state of Connecticut in 1965, the year I was born. The company has done a lot of growing since then. SUBWAY Restaurants has annual sales topping $1 billion and more locations (37,000) than any other restaurant chain in the world.

Now, SUBWAY has announced its support for the elimination of gestation crates in the pork industry, showing that yet another giant in the food retail sector has acknowledged that the extreme confinement of breeding sows is not something that can be defended or ignored.

Take action today to help pigs.

“We support the elimination of crate style housing for gestation sows and have had this eliminated from our pork suppliers in the UK,” SUBWAY states in the new “Animal Welfare” section of its website. “Also, our pork suppliers in the US have begun to transition to a more humane process including the elimination of gestation crates and anticipate having this process completed within the next 10 years.”

The similar announcements made recently by McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, and other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most mother pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. Mother pigs are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization.

This confinement system has also come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers, and more. Nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the gestation crate confinement of mother pigs. Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Dr. Temple Grandin, is clear on this issue: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.” And leading pork producers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017. 

The Humane Society of the United States supports the progress SUBWAY is making on this issue, and we’re glad to see it joining the list of major food companies working with their pork suppliers to end the confinement of pigs in gestation crates.

August 27, 2012

Victory in the California Legislature for Wildlife and Dogs

The California Senate, in a tense and close vote of 22 to 13, just approved S.B. 1221, sending a bill to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto. The bill needed 21 votes to pass, and it got to the magic number with the votes of Sens. Ed Hernandez and Mark DeSaulnier. The Assembly passed the bill 46 to 30 last week.

Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and bill author Ted Lieu did incredible heavy lifting to get the bill passed, and I want to extend my public and personal thanks to them. They were the two leads on the bill, and rarely have I seen this kind of leadership and skill exhibited by lawmakers in all my years of advocacy. Sen. Tony Strickland of Ventura County was the only Republican to back the bill, and my special thanks to him, too.

Hound puppy
S.B. 1221 to ban hound hunting of bears and 
bobcats now goes to California's Gov. Brown.

After a series of close votes in committee, on the Assembly floor, and on the Senate floor (twice), the bill goes to Gov. Brown. Brown has signed other pro-animal protection bills during his tenure, including a hard-fought bill last year to outlaw the trade in shark fins. However, animal advocates cannot take his support for granted, and he must hear from thousands of Californians, so that he knows exactly where the electorate stands on this issue.

The NRA and other hunting groups pulled out all stops to try to defeat the bill.  But the time has come for this despicable practice to end in California. We are now one signature away from that happening. Tomorrow, California residents can call Gov. Brown at (916) 445-2841 and communicate your hope that he signs the bill.

These are the senators we can thank for voting to protect bears, bobcats, and hounds:

  • Sen. Elaine K. Alquist, D-13
  • Sen. Ron Calderon, D-30
  • Sen. Ellen M. Corbett, D-10
  • Sen. Kevin De León, D-22
  • Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-7
  • Sen. Noreen Evans, D-2
  • Sen. Loni Hancock, D-9
  • Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-24
  • Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-39
  • Sen. Mark Leno, D-3
  • Sen. Ted Lieu, D-28
  • Sen. Carol Liu, D-21
  • Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-27
  • Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-32
  • Sen. Alex Padilla, D-20
  • Sen. Fran Pavley, D-23
  • Sen. Curren D. Price, D-26
  • Sen. Joe Simitian, D-11
  • Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-6
  • Sen. Tony Strickland, R-19
  • Sen. Juan Vargas, D-40
  • Sen. Leland Yee, D-8

August 24, 2012

Lawmakers Must Act to Stop Puppy Mills in North Carolina

In 2010, The HSUS led a coalition campaign to secure a ballot measure (Proposition B) in Missouri, and although it was unfairly and wrongly weakened by state lawmakers, the law that remained is still one of the strongest in the country, and it’s resulted in more than 800 puppy mills being shut down in the top dog-breeding state in the nation. It shows the power of policy work in curtailing animal abuse of the worst kind.

Recently, we urged the Obama administration to bring large Internet sellers of dogs under the regulatory authority of the USDA, and between The HSUS and other groups, advocates generated an amazing 350,000 supportive letters and signatures in support. We hope the administration makes that rule final in the coming weeks.

Puppies rescued from a puppy mill in Wilson County, N.C.
Dogs The HSUS helped rescue this week in N. Carolina.

We are also working diligently in several other big puppy mill states, and in one of these, North Carolina, we’ve put a lot of boots on the ground. There, lawmakers, working at the direction of the North Carolina Pork Council and the North Carolina Farm Bureau, have blocked sensible standards for the care of dogs. These agribusiness interests have cynically tried to block even basic animal welfare reforms unrelated to their industry. The absence of standards has led to a race to the bottom and to appalling conditions for dogs.

How do we know that? Because this week marked the 10th raid on a puppy mill operation in North Carolina in the last 18 months!

The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team helped save dogs in Franklin County, Caldwell County, Perquimans County, Stokes County, Jones County, Brunswick County, and Wilson County, returning just yesterday to help 28 more dogs. We also provided financial assistance for a Lincoln County rescue, and another rescue in Wake County brought the total to more than 1,000 rescued dogs in all.

You might ask, why is a bill needed if there have been 10 raids? The reason is, conditions for these animals have been so awful that law enforcement officials were able to invoke the state’s anti-cruelty statute, with the assistance of The HSUS. We shouldn’t have to wait until the situation deteriorates to this level to warrant this sort of intervention and crisis management. Commercial dog breeders should play by the rules and treat the animals decently, and there should be a routine inspections program to sift out the bad breeders and prevent this kind of cruelty.

These anti-cruelty raids impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies, on The HSUS, and on local animal welfare groups. Each raid costs us collectively in the tens of thousands of dollars, since we need to nurse ill or injured animals back to health, provide for short-term sheltering, and then find them loving homes. Lawmakers need no more evidence of the problem than this litany of cases.

What’s happening with dogs in North Carolina is shameful, and lawmakers need to take stock of what’s happened time and again and put workable, meaningful standards in place to prevent more suffering.

August 23, 2012

West Side Story: Helping a Woman and her Cats in Chicago

The HSUS’s Pets for Life program reaches out to help people and pets in under-served communities in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. In Chicago, we focus our efforts on North Lawndale on the southwest side of the city. In addition to lacking many basic services for people, North Lawndale has very limited animal welfare services.

Just as many communities have "food deserts" and lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, they also have animal care deserts. The HSUS works to fill that gap and provide basic services to pet owners who don't have regular access to veterinarians, groomers, or pet supplies. Recently, our PFL Chicago team met a woman named Leola and her cats, including a 10-year-old orange-and-white tabby named West Side, who had been an indoor/outdoor cat for his entire life.

Leola with her cat West Side
Leola with her cat West Side, among many pets
and families helped by our Pets for Life program.

Leola heard about our PFL program and called for help. West Side and Leola’s 9-year-old female cat, Carmen, recently had a litter of kittens—one of many litters they’ve had over the years. Leola reported that all but one kitten had died and that she was worried about the surviving kitten, Ginger.

When we arrived at Leola’s house, it was clear that the cats all had upper respiratory infections and Ginger was seriously underweight. West Side and Carmen had scars from being allowed to roam outdoors. 

Leola has also been struggling because she is unable to work due to an injury, so she relies on Social Security disability insurance—but the insurance is irregular and she can’t always afford a phone or transportation to address problems. To further complicate her situation, her building is in foreclosure and she had only a few weeks to find another place to live.

Leola eagerly accepted The HSUS’s offer to spay, neuter, and vaccinate her cats for free, including transportation assistance. Leola says her cats are the dearest things in the world to her. We found out that she had always wanted to keep the cats indoors, especially West Side, but could not because he sprayed constantly and fought to get outside. Leola was so excited to hear that neutering him would help curb this behavior so she could keep him safely indoors.

After initial treatment for their infections, we scheduled spay/neuter appointments for the cats. West Side’s wellness exam showed he had a heart murmur, causing a slightly higher risk for surgery. Leola had the option to cancel the surgery, but after a lot of thought, she chose to do it for West Side’s quality of life. She was afraid that as he got older he would be less likely to survive his rough outdoor life.

One of our great veterinarian partners in Chicago, Heal Veterinary Clinic, performed the surgery. After West Side arrived at the clinic for surgery, Leola called HSUS staff and asked them to put the phone up to the cat’s ear so she could tell him she loved him.

West Side came through the surgery just fine and is back at home. The two female cats were spayed, and all three were micro-chipped and vaccinated. Our PFL team continues to check in on the family, working with Leola to help condition West Side to stay inside and providing her with cat care information. Leola is thrilled and the cats are thriving. With all the obstacles Leola has to overcome, there are no easy answers, but now she can rest a little easier knowing her beloved cats are healthier and safer.

Leona’s love for her cats is something HSUS sees frequently. Most of our clients have a great desire to provide the best care for their pets, but there are practical barriers in place that diminish the quality of life for so many animals. Our PFL program removes these barriers, while saving lives and building humane communities.

P.S. The HSUS’ Pets for Life program helps people and pets like Leona and West Side thanks to the support of One Car One Difference. Please consider donating your vehicle to support our work.

August 22, 2012

Tennessee Walking Horses: No Cause for Celebration, Yet

Today, the 74th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration gets under way in Shelbyville, Tenn. This 10-day horse show is generally recognized as the largest, most prestigious event in the industry. As such, it is the focus of controversy surrounding the abuse that trainers inflict upon the equine athletes who are the victims of “soring” —the cruel and illegal practice used to cause horses to perform their high-stepping prance known as the “Big Lick.”

So pervasive is soring that in 2006, the Celebration failed to crown a World Grand Champion (the highest honor bestowed on any animal in the breed) because only three of the horses entered to compete could pass inspection for not being sored in violation of the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA), and the final class was canceled by show management. If nothing else proves how widespread soring is, that’s it.

Tennessee walking horse investigation
Read more about the investigation.

HSUS staff have attended and monitored the big show every year since then, and I’ll be travelling to Tennessee soon to observe the spectacle for myself. In 2007, we reached out to show management to urge reforms and offer our support. In 2009, amid record numbers of violations and seeing no signs of progress or willingness to change, we dubbed the Celebration “The Cruelest Horse Show on Earth.”

But perhaps at no time in history has public scrutiny of this event—and this breed—been greater than this year. News of an HSUS undercover investigation into the operation of well-known trainer Jackie McConnell broke on ABC’s Nightline, and was covered by other media outlets around the country, exposing a horrified public to the practices that go into the making of winning Tennessee walking horses. McConnell trained and rode the 1997 Celebration winner and trained the 2010 Reserve World Grand Champion Moody Star (a horse that was being sored in his barn during our investigation)—even while he was on a five-year federal disqualification from participating in horse shows. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the HPA, and will be sentenced on Sept. 10 in Chattanooga.

Convicted Tennessee horse trainer Barney Davis—who served most of a year-long term in federal prison after pleading guilty to various violations of the Horse Protection Act and conspiracy to commit witness tampering—testified at his sentencing hearing that soring is a common practice. “They've got to be sored to walk,” he said at the Feb. 17 hearing. “I mean, that's the bottom line. It ain’t no good way to put it, but that's it.”

Because of the widespread and severe nature of horse soring, we’ve made this issue one of our top equine protection priorities. We filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—the agency charged with enforcing the HPA—seeking tough new enforcement regulations to protect horses from this practice. We recently opened a hotline for tips about soring that can lead to rewards of up to $10,000, and we advertised the program on a billboard across the street from the Celebration in Shelbyville.

We also work with any group in the industry that signals a legitimate desire to effect change. Again this year, The HSUS contacted Celebration show organizers to urge the adoption of several key reforms that would help protect horses and restore the industry’s integrity, and to offer our support. We received no response until we made our outreach public—and even then, the only reply was a curt press release dismissing our efforts and saying everything was just fine.

According to an editorial in today’s The Tennessean newspaper, the Celebration has instituted a new program whereby show inspectors will test horses’ feet for the application of prohibited foreign substances, and produce results within 24 hours. Any entry found in violation will have its prizes stripped. As we had proposed to show management, we believe that any confirmed violation of the Horse Protection Act should result in the stripping of an entry’s title and prizes—not just the finding of a prohibited substance under the industry’s fledgling and unproven testing program. Why should anyone who cheats, and abuses horses, be allowed to keep the rewards of those misdeeds?

We have concerns about the validity and transparency of this latest incarnation of the industry’s attempts at self-regulation (which has failed miserably for over three decades)—concerns that have been echoed by many participants in the industry themselves. We will be watching this new program and monitoring the results, which to date have been kept well under wraps.

In recent days, there has been much talk around Washington that industry insiders are working through Congressional offices to apply pressure on USDA to back down in its enforcement of the HPA at this year’s show. If true, that’s appalling, given the incontrovertible evidence that’s come to light. Soring is a crime, and there should be a zero-tolerance policy for it. We need strong enforcement efforts by USDA, and we need members of Congress to strengthen the federal law and support agency efforts to root out criminal behavior. All the business and pageantry that surrounds Tennessee walking horses depend on it. This event and this sport are in crisis, and something has to change.

August 21, 2012

A Dogfighting Victim’s Tragic Story Spreads the Message of Combating Cruelty

Our mission statement is short and to the point: “Celebrating Animals/Confronting Cruelty.”

Stallone, a dog rescued from fighting
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Holding these two powerful ideas in balance is a perpetual challenge for those of us who care about animals and devote ourselves to their welfare. On one hand, there is so much cruelty to confront. On the other, animals are an incredible source of joy—whether they are our pets or the wild animals who share our landscapes.

This balance of imperatives is on my mind today because of a very special video produced by our staff. It is the most viewed video that we have ever placed on YouTube. It is also one of the saddest. It is the story of Stallone, a dog who was trapped and ultimately doomed by the scourge of organized animal fighting. It is not an easy video to watch. But it is a video that has drawn a huge audience of more than 1 million views because so many of us feel that it must be watched.

So today, let’s celebrate Stallone. For all the horrors inflicted on him by people, he paid back with a tail wag and a lick, as you can see in the video. And then, in his brave name, please join me in doubling down on our determination to confront dogfighting and other threats to animals.

August 20, 2012

Stop the Hounding of California’s Wildlife

Today, the Los Angeles Times reports on the HSUS-backed bill to stop the inhumane, unsporting, and high-tech practice of hound hunting of black bears and bobcats—where trophy hunters release as many as 20 dogs, often fitted with radio transmitters on their collars, to chase, attack, and corner a panting animal who may in the end be shot from a tree branch. That bill, S.B. 1221, which has passed the state Senate and two Assembly committees, is slated for a vote on the Assembly floor as soon as this week. Every California voter should call his or her Assemblymember in support of S.B. 1221 today.

There’s no question that the final act of the hunt—where the hunter, following the signal emitting the hounds’ collars on a handheld directional antenna, shoots the animal at point-blank range—makes a mockery of any notion of sportsmanship or fair chase. It’s more of a high-tech killing than it is a fair-chase hunt.

Spokesmen from the trophy hunting lobby claim that it’s actually humane to shoot the cornered animal, since the hunter can just about guarantee a killing shot. That’s the same, weak rationale for shooting any kind of animal in a fenced enclosure in a captive hunt, or any animal that is lured to bait.


That’s bad enough. But what’s worse, in my mind, is the run-up to that final, pathetic act.

What’s truly inhumane about high-tech hounding is the lengthy chase and the animal fight that often ensues between the bear and the pack of dogs.

Hound hunters are allowed in the field with their dogs many months of the year, including much of the autumn. The fall is a critical time in the bears’ annual life cycle, where they feed constantly to build fat reserves for their long period of dormancy, or hibernation through the winter. But the houndsmen can chase the bears for hours on end, every day during the season, denying them time to feed and causing them to expend huge amounts of energy as they flee the dogs.

There are no time limits on how long a bear can be chased. Studies in professional wildlife management journals shows that typical chases last for more than three hours, and sometimes go as long as twelve hours. The bears, with their large mass and heavy coats, overheat—and researchers note that this lengthy chase can even cause brain-stem damage. Bears can also become separated from their cubs during a lengthy chase that can cover miles.

After some period of being chased, the quarry will sometimes turn and fight the dogs, and an animal fighting situation ensues. In a state that outlaws dogfighting and cockfighting, there should be no green light given for fights between dogs and bears. The bear may be bigger, but he or she can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of dogs turned loose and attacking him or her.

The hunters claim that this amounts to “catch-and-release” hunting; they chase the bear or bobcat time and again without shooting the quarry. To me, it’s more like constant harassment and cruelty, with the bears and bobcats getting no respite.

Just about all of us, at one time or another, have felt fear when encountering an aggressive dog, even if it’s just lasted for a minute. Put yourself in the position of a bear. Imagine being chased and attacked by 20 dogs over a twelve-hour period. What fear and anguish the creature must feel.

Is that not obviously and demonstrably inhumane, even if there’s not a shot fired?

Lawmakers can rightly reject hounding because the kill is so unfair. But what makes hounding so inhumane is the use of the dogs and the chasing and fighting that is part of the process.

And all for what? For a bear head and hide, and for bragging rights.

Californians outlawed trophy hunting of mountain lions four decades ago, and they’ve affirmed that in two statewide votes, partly because lion hunting happens with packs of dogs. It’s time to pass S.B. 1221 and outlaw hounding of bears, as Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and so many other states have done.