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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Board unanimously approves proposals on Hunting with Hounds

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) Board unanimously approved a list of proposals submitted by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee on Hunting with Hounds at it's meeting this morning. As expected, the hot-button topic was the state's right-to-retrieve law -- which enables hunters to go on private land to get their dogs whether they have permission to or not. Twenty five speakers from various interest groups spoke, with the overwhelming number being pro-hunters who did not want any changes to the right to retrieve law.

The 11 proposals were the result of the game department's 15-month "Hunting with Hounds in Virginia: A Way Forward" study

No laws or new hunting rules will immediately result from the proposals.

After approval of the recommendations, DGIF Board chairman C.T. Hill ordered the game department staff to put the proposals into three categories -- administrative, regulatory and legislative. Hill then wanted proposals studied before more public comment.

The advistory committee’s final recommendations as approved are:

-Improved law enforcement of current regulations and laws.

-Improved record keeping on violations and complaints to the game department.

-Increasing funding for law enforcement.

-Increase penalties and fines for violations of current regulations and laws.

-Training seasons for deer hounds.

-Greater department oversight for the practice of hunting from or near public roads.

-Modify Virginia’s “right-to-retrieve” law, forcing hunters to make a reasonable attempt to contact landowners and requiring landowners to properly post their land.

-Better identification for hunting dogs.

-An education and training program for hunting organizations, individual hunt clubs and other relevant stakeholders.

-Establish a code of ethics for hound hunters.

-And holding violators of laws and the yet-to-be-determined code of ethics accountable.

The study used facilitators from Virginia Tech and spent approximately $56,000 of a multi-project, $250,000 contract with the university.

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