MADISON (AP) – A Democratic state senator plans to introduce a longshot bill that would prohibit Wisconsin wolf hunters from using dogs, marking another chapter in a months-long battle to stop the practice before it begins.
Sen. Fred Risser of Madison sent an email to the rest of the Legislature on Monday asking for co-sponsors. He noted that Wisconsin is the only one of seven states with a wolf hunt that allows dogs. He said humane societies are concerned about the risk of bloody clashes between dogs and wolves.
“It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s nothing more than state-sanctioned dog fighting,” Risser said in a telephone interview. “We shouldn’t have done it in the first place and maybe we can stop it before it becomes too ingrained.”
A lawyer representing a group of humane societies that sued last year to ban wolf hunters from using dogs called the bill “wonderful.”
“That would be a very sane change in public policy,” said Carl Sinderbrand, an attorney for the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, Inc. “It would reflect the will of the vast majority of Wisconsinites.”
But the bill has almost no chance of success; Republicans control both the state Senate and Assembly.
Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, was the chief sponsor of the bill that established the wolf hunt. He serves as Assembly majority leader and plays a huge role in deciding what legislation makes it to the floor for a vote. He said during a telephone interview Monday that Risser’s proposal will probably go nowhere.
“To totally eliminate an entire privilege that is out there for sportsmen, it goes too far,” Suder said.
The wolf hunt has been a flashpoint of contention since Republicans passed Suder’s bill about a year ago. Animal rights advocates see the hunt as unnecessary; farmers maintain something must be done to control a burgeoning wolf population preying on their livestock.
The bill scheduled the wolf season to run from Oct. 15 to the end of February or whenever hunters reached a kill limit imposed by the state Department of Natural Resources. The legislation allows hunters to pursue wolves with up to six dogs after the end of the November gun deer season.
Emergency rules the DNR crafted to get the first hunt off the ground limited dog use to daylight hours but set no other restrictions. A group of humane societies filed a lawsuit in August alleging the lack of regulations would lead to deadly wolf-dog fights during the season and throughout the rest of the year as hunters trained their hounds on wolves.
Dane County Circuit Judge Peter C. Anderson temporarily barred hunters from using dogs while he weighed the case. The first season began and ended while the prohibition was in place. The ban didn’t seem to hamper hunters; the DNR closed the season two months early in December after hunters had killed 117 wolves, one more than their limit.
When Anderson revisited the lawsuit in January, he concluded that the DNR didn’t have to impose restrictions on dogs in wolf hunts but that it should have tweaked its rules to account for the risk in training dogs on wolves. He issued a double-sided ruling, saying hunters could use dogs to pursue wolves during the season but barred them from training on wolves.
The DNR is currently drafting permanent rules that would allow hunters to train dogs on wolves during in-season daylight hours and the month of March. Each dog also would have to be tattooed or wear a collar with its owner’s name and address. The agency doesn’t expect to implement the rules until 2014.
The humane societies say that’s not good enough because hunters will face no restrictions going into the 2013-14 hunt.