As wolf hunting season in Wisconsin gets underway, a Wisconsin legislator introduced a bill to prohibit hunters from using dogs in the hunt, saying the practice is “inhumane” and puts hunting dogs in danger.
Wisconsin is one of seven states that allows wolf hunting. Of those, only one state allows hunters to use dogs during the hunt, Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said.
Risser, who introduced the bill in March, said he is disappointed the bill has not yet received a public hearing.
“I don’t think the chairman of the [Natural Resources] committee is sympathetic to the bill,” Risser said. “My opinion is the chairman of the committee doesn’t want to hold a public hearing.”
Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, said the use of dogs while hunting is an “inappropriate action” by the hunter.
Dick Thiel, a former wildlife educator, said in an email to The Badger Herald the use of dogs is a “horrendous” act and should not be allowed.
Risser also called using dogs in the hunt “inhumane.”
“Wolves can attacks dogs and the dog is often the loser. It is legalized animal fighting. I don’t see the sport,” Risser said.
Thomas Heberlein, a UW professor and an expert on the sociology of wolf hunting, said there are few biological factors in the decision to use a dog while hunting and the decision varies by culture.
As a sociologist, Heberlein said he does not have an opinion as to whether using dogs is right or wrong but said the decision should be left up to the discretion of the hunter.
According to Risser, wolf hunting in Wisconsin is only a recent issue of the past few decades due to a rise in the wolf population.
“There was a rise of wolf population and people thought it would be a good idea to hunt,” Risser said. “I personally don’t think the population is that high, but people think differently.”
According to Wisconsin state statutes, for every dog killed while hunting, the hunter can receive up to $2,500 in depredation payments from the state.
In a statement released Monday, Risser said the state has paid more than $441,000 to hunters who have lost their dogs in hunting accidents since 1984. The beginning of 2013 has seen 26 deaths of hunting dogs, resulting in the state paying out an estimated $65,000 to hunters.
Heberlein said people who have filed suits against using dogs claim using them will give hunting a bad reputation, which Heberlein said he has not observed in his research.
The group of people against allowing dogs to hunt is small and may not be enough to call for a hearing before a committee, HE added.
However, the issue over using hunting dogs in the wolf hunt will not ultimately affect many people in the state, he said.
Calls to Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, were not returned.