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Monday, August 23, 2010

Bear Baiting

South Carolina Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster says animal cruelty laws prohibit bear baying 

"However" he hasn't prosecuted any cases

Bear baying


Update: View Video

"COLUMBIA, S.C. — A declawed, defanged bear is chained to a stake as hunting dogs bark and snap, trying to force the bear to stand on its hind legs. The training exercise called bear baying is intended to make the bears easier to shoot in the wild and it's allowed only in South Carolina.


Armed with new undercover video of four such events, the Humane Society of the United States is pressuring state officials to explicitly outlaw the practice, which the organization says is effectively banned in every other state. Animal rights advocates say it's cruel to the nearly defenseless bears and harms them psychologically.


Hunters say the exercise, popular in the state's hilly northwestern corner, helps them train their dogs on what to do when they come across a bear during a hunt.


But John Goodwin, the Humane Society's chief animal fighting expert, calls it 'bear baiting' -- a centuries-old bloodsport that is more for spectators' entertainment than instruction for dogs on what to do when they encounter wild bears..."


"...(Michael) Markarian  (the Humane Society's chief operating officersaid bear baying is illegal in all states but South Carolina, though a review of some of those laws shows the ban is by default. North Carolina, for instance, has a law against keeping black bears in captivity except for zoos or for scientific research, but has no explicit ban on baying.


South Carolina's ban on animal fighting has an exemption that allows bear baying, as long as there is no "repeated contact" between the animals. When the attorney general was asked to weigh in on the issue in 2008, McMaster issued an opinion saying he views the practice as illegal under the state's animal cruelty law..."
"...State law on the issue is murky. Statutes banning animal fighting have a specific exemption for dog training. And while South Carolina Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster says animal cruelty laws prohibit bear baying, he hasn't prosecuted any cases..."


"...On Monday, a spokesman for McMaster's office said prosecutors were reviewing the videos.
Bear hunting is permitted for two weeks each October in only three counties in northwestern South Carolina. Last year, hunters bagged 92 bears -- the most ever recorded in a season.


For a limited time in 2005, the state Department of Natural Resources issued 38 permits to keep bears for baying, all for bears that were already in captivity as pets or in small zoos. Fourteen of those bears have either died or been let go, leaving 24 permitted captive bears, according to regional wildlife coordinator Tom Swayngham.
At least eight of those animals are used for baying in the three counties where bear hunting is permitted, Markarian said. But the same bear showed up in all the events taped by the group's investigators, he said..." Read full article

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