MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – Wisconsin – the only state that allows hunters to use dogs to track wolves – is being cruel to both species, several Humane Societies claim in court.
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Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies and others sued the state Department of Natural Resources in Dane County Court.
The groups claim the state ignored “undisputed evidence that wolf-dog direct physical encounters will result in the maiming, killing and associated cruelty to both species” when it issued regulations “without reasonable restrictions” for the state’s 5-month wolf hunt, which begins Oct. 15.
The Humane Societies claim the regulations violate Wisconsin law by “failing to include reasonable restrictions to ensure that dogs are used to ‘track’ or ‘trail’ wolves, and not used to confront wolves directly.”
They claim the rules illegally authorize and facilitate mistreatment and cruelty to animals, due to lack of dog training requirements and broad use of dogs to hunt wolves.
The Legislature in April approved 2011 Wisconsin Act 169, authorizing the DNR to issue wolf “harvesting” licenses under the created Wis. Stat. 29.185.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that allows hunters to use dogs to track wolves, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The DNR will issue up to 2,000 permits, from the 7,000 applications it received, and estimates that 201 wolves will be killed out of a total population of 800, according to Wisconsin news reports.
The Humane Societies claim that the DNR promulgated its regulations in defiance of wolf and dog experts, who gave the DNR information on “the necessity of developing reasonable restrictions on the use of dogs to track and trail wolves,” to prevent the “maiming, killing and associated cruelty to both species.”
“This information included undisputed evidence that wolves are territorial animals that reside and travel in packs, are protective of their territories, and are prone to attack dogs and other animals that enter their territories, particularly during summer months when their young are first venturing from their dens,” the complaint states.
The groups claim the DNR was provided with “undisputed evidence that encounters between wolves and hunting dogs commonly result in fierce fights in which both wolves and dogs are maimed and killed.”
Experts “concluded that in order to reduce the risk and incidents of wolf-dog direct physical encounters and associated cruelty to both species, it is necessary for DNR’s rules to include reasonable restrictions relating to requirements for dog training, the time periods during which in-field dog training may occur, and the restraint and management of dogs during hunting activities to ensure that dogs are used exclusively to ‘track’ and ‘trail’ wolves,” the complaint states.
But the DNR failed and refused to include reasonable restrictions in its regulations, the coalition says. It claims the DNR’s wolf harvesting program violates criminal statutes prohibiting mistreatment of animals, because it promotes the use of dogs “to confront wolves directly and physically.”
The coalition seeks temporary and permanent injunctions prohibiting the DNR from issuing wolf harvesting licenses and prohibiting the hunt until reasonable restrictions on the use of dogs are established.
An injunction hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29.
Plaintiffs are the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, the Dane County Humane Society, the Wisconsin Humane Society, the Fox Valley Humane Association, the Northwood Alliance, the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, a couple who own and operate Central Wisconsin Wolf Dog Rescue, and a veterinarian.
Defendants are the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its Secretary Cathy Stepp.
The coalition is represented by Robert Habush, with Habush, Habush & Rottier.