The practice of bear baying, an activity where a defenseless defanged and declawed bear is chained while dogs bark and sometimes bite it, is coming under fire in South Carolina — the only state where it is still legal. It has been defended as training for dogs that will be used to hunt bears, but critics have countered that dogs hunting bears will bark when they encounter one naturally, and attack it without training.
Critics have also pointed out that during bear baying, the bears suffer and those who attend these secret gatherings view them as entertainment, not unlike cockfighting or dog fighting. In other words, saying bear baying is an educational experience really is just a lie to try justifying the cruel and unnecessary treatment of bears for entertainment.
A Humane Society of South Carolina representative said, “This is going on right in our back yard. We found out that people are coming from West Virginia, Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee to participate because they know they won’t get arrested.” (Source: Groupstates.com)
The bear baying meetings are organized by the National Plott Hound Association. Plott hounds are dogs bred just for hunting bears, and other large predators. They have a reputation for fearlessness and persistence that lasts for days when on the hunt. A witness who attended a bear baying event said, “Although he estimates that some 300 Plotts hurled themselves at a staked bear over the course of a day, the result was that ‘the bear got chewed on a bit, and the dogs got cuffed around.’” (Source: Slate.com) If hundreds of dogs in small groups are going after the bear in a bear baying, that means the defenseless bear is on a short chain or tether being barked at and bitten for hours at a time. The damage to the bear would not be limited to just being chewed up a bit. The bear obviously would be terrified and greatly stressed, especially because it can’t move away or defend itself, and would have some recognition of its inability to deal with hundreds of dogs coming at it.
Republican Senator Glen McConnell has proposed Senate Bill 253 to ban bear baying. The proposed legislation would also ban the keeping of bears as pets, which is clearly another hazard both to people and to the bears because large predators sometimes revert back to their wild behavior and attack people or people harass and attack the bear. Of course, keeping a large mobile animal in a small cage or chained in a backyard is also cruel. There are 21 bears kept as pets in backyard cages in the state.
New York was the first state to ban bear baying (sometimes also called baiting), having done so in 1856. An online petition to ban bear baying in South Carolina has been created.
Image Credit: KenThomas.us