Hundreds of hunters lined the halls of the state capitol -- so many, that they had to wait outside or in an overflow room, as the Natural Resources and Water Committee took up Senate Bill 1221. It would ban the use of hounds in the hunting of bears and bobcats. The measure is sponsored by St. Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Long Beach.
"If you saw the ABC7 story yesterday, you'll see that these marauding packs of dogs just basically attack anything in its site and one of their videos shows them attacking a baby bear cub," Lieu said.
The committee allowed each side two speakers. Supporting the ban was the president of the California Game Wardens Foundation; he read weekly reports from game wardens about bad hound hunters.
"Illegal nighttime pursuit of bears by hounds, illegal take of bear gallbladders and paws, hounds trained by licensed outfitters using domestic cats in cages to train them," Judd Hanna said.
A wildlife biologist described the impact the hounds have on animals, besides bears and bobcats.
"Off the leash and off trail, hounds are unpredictable and cause stress and flushing behavior in many wildlife species including deer, birds and small mammals," Rick Hopkins said.
Then, the hunters took the floor. The president of California Houndsmen for Conservation argued using hounds is the fairest form of hunting.
"When you use hounds for the pursuit of bear and bobcat, the bear or bobcat knows it's being pursued, your dogs are barking for the entirety of the time, so it's like telling the animal 'ready or not, here we come,'" Josh Brones said.
The hunters brought their own wildlife biologist to argue hound hunting allows for "catch and release" -- once the bear is treed, the hunter can choose to walk away without firing a shot.
"With hounds, you're able to get a good look at the animal in the tree, and you can see the mammary tissue if it's a lactating female, in some cases you can see the cubs if it's a female with cubs; other forms of hunting are less discriminating," Jim Akenson said.
The committee allowed anyone who came to the hearing to give their name and which side they support -- the hunters far outnumbered the ban's supporters. But, the hound ban passed anyway 5-3 -- a close margin, but a major defeat in a committee that has supported hunters in the past. The ban now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.