Saving the Hounds | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | December 27, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: December 27, 2017 at 5:34 pm
By CINDY CROSBY
The Colleton County Animal Care and Control is seeing an influx of hounds being brought to the shelter by concerned citizens – many of which are emaciated and in need of immediate care to survive. Since November 1, they have received approximately 20 hounds in poor condition.
According to Laura Clark, shelter manager, this is typical for this time of year with the end of deer hunting season approaching January 1, 2018. Physically athletic and sturdy, hounds are known to be instinctual hunting dogs, bred primarily to seek and hunt prey by sight or sound and with incredible stamina.
Shelter workers attribute the influx of hounds at the end of the deer hunting season to several factors – one of which revolves around out-of-state hunters who leave their dogs when they return to their home state.
“As I understand it, some hunters will cull their pack, leaving the older dogs who don’t hunt well behind, so they don’t have to continue to feed them,” said Clark. “Often the dogs are in very poor condition physically, as some hunters believe hungry dogs hunt better. The dogs often have untreated skin conditions and are usually infested with fleas and ticks. Despite their poor treatment, they are usually very friendly and can be rehabilitated to become great family pets.”
One such hound, Willis, was brought to the shelter by a concerned citizen Tuesday, December 12. Willis was emaciated to the point of being near death. Two-weeks later, he is on the road to a full recovery and was found heart-worm negative.
“Willis is doing well and has a good appetite,” said Clark. “He seems happy to have a warm and safe place to lay his sweet head.”
Clark, with the help of FoCCAS, will be sending five or six hounds to great homes in California on January 7. “They have a high demand for hounds there because they are overrun with smaller breeds like the chihuahua,” said Clark.
Hunting with domesticated canines dates back nearly 15,000 years – when European settlers brought their hunting dog traditions with them to North America. In South Carolina, dog hunting regulations are some of the most permissible according to an article published in on the North American Whitetail website.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) divided the state into six geographical hunting zones. Dog-hunting is not permitted in zones one and two found in the upstate, where conditions are fairly rugged and hold fewer whitetails. In the 28 counties that make up zones three through six, dog-hunting has been practiced for hundreds of years.
One local hunter, Mickey Joe Pye, considers dog-hunting not only a time-honored tradition, but part of his heritage – and one that comes with much responsibility.
Pye, who currently has 25 deer dogs and averages hunting three days a week, cares for and treats them as prized possessions – spending countless hours investing in their care and health.
On a recent visit to Pye’s home in Cottageville, it was obvious how much the sport means to him and further evidenced by the care and well-kept facilities for his dogs.
“Hunting with dogs is part of my heritage,” said Pye. “It is something people shouldn’t take for granted. I got my first dog at 5-years-old. My daddy got it from Mr. Merrick Hiott – I was the only one who could catch it, so he gave it to me. I saved up enough money to go to the hardware store in Cottageville and get a dog collar with my name and telephone number on it. My next dog came from Mr. John Baggett, a local farmer who my daddy worked for, who brought me a dog from Mr. Parker Tuten of Yemassee.”
“I have been taking care of animals my whole life,” said Pye. “I feel like you should not keep more dogs than you can financially care for. It is expensive to have hunting dogs – from feeding, veterinarian care and GPS equipment and tracking collars.”
“I raise my dogs from puppies – and I feed them year-round,” said Pye. “When I get off work, I’m home feeding them, cleaning their pens and taking care of them. I treat them like family – that is the way it should be. Every dog I have has a name and I grow attached to them.”
Acknowledging that not everyone understands the heritage and tradition that surrounds dog-hunting, Pye was hopeful to increase awareness about the sport and advocate for the protection and care of the animals. “Some people have a perception that all dog hunters are cruel or bad,” said Pye. “That just isn’t the case. These dogs love what they do. It is just like if you are a golfer or play a sport – hunting dogs are bred and trained to hunt deer or hogs. It is awful that people don’t take care of these special animals.”
Pye acknowledged many of the hounds brought to the shelter may be abandoned by out-of-state hunters. “They bring dogs here – use and hunt them, then they leave them behind,” said Pye. “Since deer season is winding up, they don’t want to feed them from January to August. They would rather buy new dogs next season. I’m not saying it is all out-of-state hunters, because there will always be people who don’t care for animals like they should. There are bad people everywhere.”
Another local hunter, Willis Dobison agrees that the problem must be addressed. “Some people give hunters a bad name,” said Dobison. “I have 15 dogs and spend at least $50 a week on food, along with $10 per dog for shots and then take care of them as needed throughout the year. These people only want dogs for a season and won’t feed them after it ends. Everyone I hunt with takes care of their dogs year-round, while many out-of-state hunters let their dogs go. We see it too often – I’ve actually adopted some of these dogs.”
SCDNR issued new deer hunting regulations prior to the 2017-18 season limiting resident and nonresidents tags and increasing the cost. “With the new DNR regulations on deer hunting, things should continue to improve,” said Pye. “They are limiting nonresidents now and not allowing them to rent large blocks of land where they shoot all the deer. This should trickle down to less dogs left behind by their owners.”