Saturday, April 13, 2013

Humane societies appeal WI. wolf hunt ruling

Friday, April 12, 2013
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of humane societies Friday appealed a Dane County judge's ruling that wolf hunters can use dogs, extending their fight to erase one of the most polarizing elements of Wisconsin's wolf season.

The humane societies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition filed a lawsuit last summer alleging the state Department of Natural Resources failed to impose any real restrictions on wolf hunters using dogs when the agency set up the framework for the first wolf season. They argued the agency had set the stage for bloody wolf-dog brawls.

Judge Peter C. Anderson earlier this year barred hunters from training dogs to hunt wolves in Wisconsin. But he ruled hunters could run dogs on wolves during the season.
The societies and the coalition sent a notice of appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeals on Friday morning.

Briefs spelling out their positions won't be due for weeks. But their attorneys issued a statement saying they believe the judge didn't address their request for a ruling on whether the DNR's lack of restrictions violates Wisconsin's animal cruelty laws. They also contended he didn't address their request for a permanent injunction barring the use of dogs on wolves. "Without this appeal, there will be nothing to stop the bloodshed and state-sanctioned 'dog-fighting' certain to ensue this fall when dogs are set on wolves," attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin said in the statement.

DNR spokesman Bill Cosh declined comment. A spokeswoman for the state Justice Department, which helped defend the DNR during the initial lawsuit, said agency attorneys hadn't seen the notice yet and declined to comment.

Republican legislators passed a law last year establishing Wisconsin's first organized wolf season after President Barack Obama's administration removed Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list. The season runs from October until the end of February or whenever hunters reach DNR-mandated kill limits.

Supporters say the hunt is needed to protect farmers' livestock, but animal rights advocates contend the state's wolf population is fragile. They say the wolf is a majestic creature and hunters should leave it alone. The hunt has especially angered Wisconsin's Chippewa tribes, who see the wolf as a spiritual brother.

Adding more fuel to the dispute are provisions allowing hunters to use up to six dogs after the November gun deer season ends. Emergency rules the DNR enacted to start the season limited dog use to daylight hours but laid out no other restrictions.

The humane societies and the wolf watchers coalition's lawsuit last August alleged the lack of regulations on hunting and training would lead to deadly dog-wolf clashes in the woods year-round, forcing the societies to care for injured dogs and wolves, endangering wolf observers and violating animal cruelty statutes.

Anderson issued a temporary injunction banning hunters from using dogs during the season and barring them from training dogs on wolves while he considered the case. It turned out hunters didn't need dogs; they killed 117 wolves, one more than the kill limit. The DNR shut the season down in December, two months early.

Anderson in January issued a final ruling that found the DNR had no obligation to impose restrictions on using dogs in the hunt. But he said the agency should have revised its training rules to address the "serious risk" training on wolves poses and banned training statewide.

The DNR is crafting permanent regulations that would restrict training dogs on wolves to daylight hours during the wolf season and the month of March, require dogs to be tattooed or wear an identification collar and limit hunters to six dogs.

The rules won't go into effect until the 2014 season, though. DNR officials want to study data from two seasons first. That means as things stand now, hunters can use dogs during the upcoming fall season.

An overwhelming majority of attendees at the Conservation Congress' annual spring hearings this month approved the restrictions, but they also narrowly approved prohibiting dogs on wolves all together. The votes were advisory only.

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