Concerned for the safety of hunting dogs brought along during Wisconsin's first wolf hunt this fall, the Wisconsin Humane Society has joined other groups in a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resoures and Natural Resources Board.
The lawsuit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, asks the court "to stop the DNR from authorizing the use of dogs for wolf hunting until reasonable rules are established to protect dogs from injury or death, according to a press release from the society. Other plaintiffs include outdoorsmen, hunters, volunteer trackers, and other Wisconsin animal welfare organizations.
When the state passed a law permitting the hunt, it included use of dogs for tracking and trailing — and it directed the DNR to set in place rules for use of these domestic animals, said Anne Reed, executive director of the Wisconsin Humane Society. She added: "They didn't do it."
"Wisconsin has just become the only state to allow dogs in wolf hunting, and we have done it with rules that do virtually nothing to protect dogs from being ripped apart by wolves," she said.
Wolves were given federal protection in the early 1970s, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The paper wrote that farmers and citizens reported more threats to dogs, deer and cattle as the wolf population grew out from northern Minnesota.
In January, the gray wolf was removed from the federally endangered species list in Wisconsin and other Midwest states, according to the Wisconsin DNR website. The DNR said it hoped to maintain the population at a healthy level and address problem areas of wolf attacks. A New York Times blog item said the Wisconsin wolf population is about 800.
"Wisconsin regulations will treat the gray wolf as a protected wild animal, which means that authorization from the DNR is required before a person can attempt to 'take' or kill a wolf," the website said.
More than 10,000 applications for wolf hunt permits have been submitted, and only 2,010 will be chosen via a lottery system, according to GazetteExtra.com. The hunt runs from Oct. 15 through the end of February. Applications cost $10 and are being taken through Aug. 31.
The Humane Society and others involved in the suit believe that wolf attacks on dogs being used in other animal hunts are proof that stronger regulations are needed before this season starts up.
"The DNR has paid more than $427,000 since 1985 to hunters whose unleashed hounds were killed by wolves while pursuing bears in known wolf pack areas," Reed said. "One-hundred and ninety-two dead hunting dogs in total, not to mention the 40 more treated for injuries at an additional cost of $20,000." (See attached PDFs.)
Reed said the law lacks training requirements for dogs, and leash restrictions that would keep hunting dogs in "safe proximity to their handlers," do not exist.
Bill Cosh, a spokesman with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, has said the DNR is "disappointed" by the lawsuit, but added little other comment, according to the New York Times.