The Humane Society of the United States was in Columbia and Spartanburg Monday, releasing undercover videos of bear baying events which they say are held regularly in the South Carolina Upstate. In bear baying, a declawed, defanged bear is chained to a stake as hunting dogs snap at it. The national organization is pressuring state officials to outlaw the practice. Humane Society officials say such events are banned in every other state and only held in Pakistan.
Hunters say it’s just an exercise that allows them to train dogs for bear hunting. Bear hunting is permitted for two weeks each October, in three Upstate counties. Last year 92 bears were killed.
Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle says the bears are chained and different groups of dogs attack them for up to four hours at a time. Pacelle says spectators watch the events and it’s just another kind of animal fighting.
This is modified animal fighting. In fact, bear baiting, where a bear was tethered and dogs attacked them, was outlawed 200 years ago in the United Kingdom. New York was the first state to ban the practice in 1856.
Attorney General Henry McMaster issued an opinion 2008 saying he views the practice as illegal under the state’s animal cruelty law but no cases have been prosecuted. South Carolina’s ban on animal fighting has an exemption that allows bear baying as long as there’s no repeated contact between the dogs and the bear.
Pacelle says he wants to see the practice stopped. He says the practice–what he calls not “bear baying” but “bear baiting”– is not acceptable.
Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mike Willis says for a limited time in 2005, DNR issued 38 permits to keep bears in captivity, as pets, in small zoos or for dog training. He says otherwise, keeping bears is illegal. Many of those original 38 have died and only 21 remain in captivity.
Those that had bears in captivity at that time were grandfathered in. We were faced with the problem of, if we confiscate the bears, what do we do with them? You can’t release them back into the wild and there are no zoos that will take them. That creates another problem.