At this point in my waterfowl tenure, my focus has shifted. Have I gone soft? Negative. I still crave feet-down action and cherish sending steel into the air. Mostly, though, I embrace the elements for my 14-year-old son Hunter and Lab, Kimber. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a waterfowl hunt without either. I cherish my son’s ever-optimistic attitude, and the Lab sure makes life easy.
While our rights as hunters are constantly under attack, I feel confident my son’s waterfowling career won’t be interrupted. As for my dog, I’m not so sure. Happening right under our noses are multiple attacks pioneered by the Humane Society of the United States.
“It’s a direct attack and a behind-the-scenes effort to simply end hunting,” said Brian Lynn of the Sportsman’s Alliance.
Lynn, who is the VP of Marketing and Communications for this forward-thinking group that is designed to protect hunting, recently sat in on a committee meeting in Washington State. The meeting was centered around a bill put forth to redefine animal cruelty.
“Thank God we killed it,” Lynn said. “South Carolina, however, still has a similar bill under review. We need to understand that these are coordinated attacks by the anti-hunting crowd.”
The bill equated all animal pain to human pain. Basically, if it was reasonable to think a human would feel pain, an animal would feel it too. The definition of pain included any physical or emotional state ranging from mild discomfort to excruciating.
This definition brings into question the use of e-collars, choke chains, in-ground fences and more. Not to mention that simply training a dog, which creates stress for the animal and mild discomfort, could lead to a prosecution. It’s astounding: All training, even for humans, creates a level of pain and stress.
“If this bill would pass, and I have no doubt it will be introduced in more states, it would make pushing the button on your e-collar a crime,” Lynn noted. “Think about force fetch, an ear pinch or toe hitch. If these broad-definition bills get passed, the foundation of all retriever training will be in jeopardy.”
Josh Miller, a professional dog trainer and breeder of British Labradors, believes e-collars are an essential tool for the dog handler. Miller, who is also a representative for SportDOG Brand and a hardcore waterfowler, feels we need to get more information out there about the effectiveness of e-collars and their true purpose.
“As a dog handler, I don’t think there is a better tool you can have if you use them correctly,” Miller said. “I think what we’re seeing boils down to a lack of education. Being I breed British Labradors, I spend a grip of time overseas each year, and my friends overseas come stateside and train with me. I learn from them and they learn from me. It’s really fun. In their neck of the woods e-collars are illegal, and they have a very negative perception of them. However, once they see how they are used and how the dog responds to them, they quickly start to understand.”
Miller went on to talk about how his end goal, whether training his own personal dogs or a dog for a client, is for that dog to operate without an e-collar. During training, however, Miller believes that the e-collar is one of the clearest ways of communication between trainer and dog.
“The e-collar should be used as a reinforcement tool,” Miller added. “We are reinforcing behaviors that have already been learned. With the e-collar, I can reinforce any command at any distance, and it makes things a lot clearer to the dog.
“Reinforcement needs to be immediate. If your dog is 300 yards out and you need to stop him so he can take a cast, and he doesn’t stop, you need to reinforce that immediately. By the time you call the dog back or walk out there, he has mentally moved on. The dog won’t understand at this point why it’s being corrected. E-collars are truly better for the dog, and the more positive education we can get out there the better.”
Sadly, the insanity doesn’t stop with the aforementioned bill. States like Illinois, New Hampshire and Florida have proposed bills that will directly affect breeding, litters and taxes. Lynn noted that a bill proposed in Florida states that if a person had more than four puppies or transferred more than four puppies, that person would be considered a commercial breeder.
“They put these arbitrary numbers out there,” he said. “It might be four, fifteen or twenty. Hell, who knows. The devil is in the details. All of a sudden, a guy has puppies and he needs to register as a commercial breeder, get a license, obtain permits, open up to USDA inspection and the list goes on. This drives up the price of the pups as well as limits and hurts those looking to find a good sporting dog.”
If you’re not shaking mad yet, don’t fret, there’s more. According to Lynn, the HSUS is the mastermind behind these bills. Of course, much like a gangster passing dirty work down to his cronies, the organization has involved smaller anti-groups as well.
“In some states, there are bills currently out there that will enforce a certain code on dog houses,” Lynn said. “It will be like a housing code. The dog house will have to be four inches off the ground, contain a certain type of insulation and have an overhang of three inches. The process of building a simple dog house becomes insanely expensive. You won’t be able to use straw, hay or a blanket inside. Why? Because those things get wet and cause discomfort to the animal. Then there are bills being proposed that say if you break these laws, you will have to register as an animal abuser. Yes, the same way a sex offender has to register.”
Let’s think about commercial trainers for a minute. These folks may suddenly have to go out and invest thousands of dollars into housing materials for both their dogs and the dogs of their clients. The HSUS is looking to drive up the costs of training, housing and breeding. They may not be able to stop hunting, but they may able to stop you from being able to afford a dog.
“Some states are looking to actually make outdoor dogs illegal,” Lynn added. “Like many of these bills, we’ve quashed them in some states, but the attacks keep coming. States like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Massachusetts have bills out there that would regulate a dog’s exposure to outside weather—both hot and cold. This would make it impossible to acclimate your dog to hunting conditions. If you can’t acclimate your dog, how can you hunt them?”
Many of these bills are dangerous because they seem reasonable — because of the of the broad language used — to the general public.
“Keep in mind all of these bills are designed to limit, stop or make hunting, training, kenneling, breeding and housing dogs economically impossible,” Lynn concluded. “Dog owners could literally become criminals overnight. Stay informed.”