I Ain’t Got a Dog

I Ain’t Got a Dog

By: Jim Beers  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation | Canine Issues | Wildlife Journal |

All you folks out there who have a positive view of your relationship with and use of animals, there is something you should know. If you enjoy meat or have a pet, if you fish or have a relative who benefited from medicinal testing on animals, even if you only treasure the freedoms which we have enjoyed in this country for 225 years, you should know it too.

For more than 60 years the state fish and wildlife departments have been given annual shares in the taxes placed on guns and ammunition. Today, this amounts to millions of dollars each year to each state. One of the most common uses of that money is to purchase land for wildlife habitat. This land must be kept in wildlife habitat and managed for the purpose of ‘wildlife restoration.’ In practice, all species of wildlife from bats to bluebirds and rattlesnakes have and are benefiting from the management of these areas by the state fish and wildlife agencies.

For many years, state wildlife areas have hosted annual hunting dog field trials. As a legitimate wildlife-oriented recreation and as a training experience for hunting dogs who reduce the loss of game animals that might otherwise be lost, field trials were and are supported by the state agencies. Enter the 1990s and the new wildlife non-managers in the Federal government.

As these ‘lock it up and throw away the keys’ bureaucrats were closing roads and locking up vast federal areas with executive orders and wilderness designations, they were also redefining wildlife-oriented recreation on National Wildlife Refuges. Trapping for wildlife management purposes was inexorably eliminated and promised trapping on new refuges never materialized. Hunting was reduced where possible and requirements and rules were tightened to make the experience less enjoyable and more difficult. These ‘successes’ prompted federal bureaucrats to look toward the state lands purchased with the federally collected taxes on guns and ammunition to expand their sphere of control.

Up to the 1990s, the federal oversight role on these state lands was to make sure no governor put a prison on them or paved them over for stadium parking. The new bureaucrats thought, why not tell the state how to use the lands too? In 1998, federal bureaucrats gave long consideration to an executive order to ban all traps and trapping on all federal lands but were afraid of the reaction from trappers, state fish and wildlife agencies and ranchers.

So the new non-hunting bureaucrats thought to exert control over more land by making the states shut down field trials. For one thing, the field trialers don’t buy licenses so the state agencies were not expected to fight for them like they would hunters, fishermen, and trappers. Also, there aren’t many field trial advocates and if the federal bureaucrats could pull this off, next they could stop handgun use or hunting with bow and arrow or a whole lot of other things. If field trials could be stopped, the state agencies would quickly realize that they were merely caretakers of federal lands which were under federal control. Because they are so dependent on future shares of these taxes, the state agencies were expected to quickly heel to federal masters.

When the states surprised the federal bureaucrats and fought back, the federal bureaucrats enlisted some of the top Washington non-government-organizations to help them fight Congress, the states, and the handful of dog field trial participants who were being shut out. NGO’s like the Wildlife Management Institute and the National Rifle Association stepped up for the federal bureaucrats. Both organizations threw their considerable support behind the US Fish and Wildlife Service in meetings and in their publications. The fact that both expect to benefit from future federal grants and that they have both been awarded grants by the USFWS in the past was certainly an element in their behavior. The fact that both have top employees who used to work at the agencies and whose modus operandi is getting along and seeking compromise also played into the equation. Chuckling in the background as this scenario progressed are the groups who want no public use on public lands and the groups who want no animals used by any person for any purpose. All of these people stand to advance their agendas by this little known play being acted out today in the bowels and meeting rooms of Washington.

So what, you say, I ain’t got a dog. Well friend, the field trialers are going the way of the logger, the rancher, the trapper, the medical testing labs, dog breeders, hunters, and fishermen. If you don’t understand how this will eventually affect you and your freedoms and style of living, give it some thought.

The people doing these things act in concert far more than you realize. They know that it is possible to keep biting off small pieces of your freedoms one at a time. They know that they will choke on any attempted big bites. All of us, from bear hunters to Doberman breeders to circus and rodeo attendees have to hang together and stop this inexorable dismantling of our freedoms and way of life. If we don’t, like Ben Franklin said, we’ll all surely hang separately.

Contact your state fish and wildlife agency or the National Animal Interest Alliance (naia@involved.com) or your federal representative and senators. Tell them you support field trials on state and federal public lands. Ask them to support it too and ask friends who train dogs how you can help preserve this American freedom. For all our sakes, learn about these issues and do your part.

Editor’s note: This article was written while the US Fish & Wildlife Service reviewed rules governing the use of federally funded state wildlife lands for hunting dog field trials. USFWS decided not to write new rules restricting this use, but the points made in the article are nonetheless valuable ones for all who have a relationship with animals.

About The Author

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Jim Beers -

Member/Volunteer/Partner/Article Writer of the National Animal Interest Alliance.

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