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October 14, 2013

Keeping Bear Baying at Bay

The Department of Natural Resources in South Carolina has put an end to the archaic and barbaric practice of bear “baying,” three years after The HSUS released the results of an undercover investigation that showed dogs attacking a tethered, often declawed and defanged bear, with hundreds of people watching the spectacle just as they’d watch a dogfight or cockfight. Dozens of news outlets covered our original investigation, and there was a collective gasp that such a thing was both permitted and conducted.

Last week, the DNR announced that the six bears used in bear baying competitions had been relinquished to the agency and were safely transported to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo., where they will spend the remainder of their lives in peace.

Bears enjoying their new home
Wild Animal Sanctuary
The bears explore their spacious new habitat.

At the bear baying events we investigated, handlers released dogs that successively attacked a tethered bear for hours. The supposed goal was for the dogs to corner the bear and keep her still, or “at bay.” In reality, the dogs barked furiously at the terrified bear, jumping on her and biting her face and legs - and the bear fought back, swatting at the dogs. While similar spectacles take place in Pakistan, South Carolina was the only state in the U.S. known to host these cruel events.

Since we first saw the footage that our undercover investigators captured, The HSUS has been working – sometimes quietly behind the scenes – to rid the state of this disgraceful pursuit. 

Last month, the DNR arrested a man and filed felony charges against him for allowing dogs to repeatedly attack and bite a captive bear. As part of a plea deal, the owner surrendered three bears, which were among the six transported to Colorado. And last week, we applauded the agency’s entire law enforcement team who worked to investigate this activity and ensure that the bears were sent to a reputable sanctuary.

The six rescued bears range in age from 7 to 23. We don’t know how many years of their lives were spent suffering in what must have been a terrifying existence, but today we are so thankful that we could pull back the curtain on this underground and shameful practice. It’s another transformational HSUS investigation that resulted in people of conscience (in this case, law enforcement personnel) taking action once the information came to light.

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