Some animal shelters in Virginia say they're filled with stray hound dogs during the end of winter, early spring. Animal advocates have blamed hunters, saying they set the dogs loose once the season ends, around this time of year.
About 80 percent of all the dogs at the Richmond Animal League are hounds, or hound mixes, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of RAL.
"This is Janie," McCracken said pointing to a dog which is at least part hound. "Janie came to us from Caroline County, where there are lots of hound dogs."
McCracken says it's never certain where a dog comes from around hunting season. "Whether they're picked up as strays, or they're turned in by owners, the shelters do tend to fill up with hound and hound mixes," said McCracken. "Often times, really, really thin."
However, some dogs show obvious signs of being used by hunters. "Some dogs do come in with markings on them, that you can tell they've been numbered," continued McCracken.
However, many hunters say they keep excellent care of their dogs.
"We believe...the overwhelming majority of hunters that use dogs, are law abiding, ethical people who really care about their dogs," said Kirby Burch, vice chairman of the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance.
Burch says hounds are popular dogs throughout the country, and likely end up in shelters anyway, never having been used for hunting. He also says that people may steal hunting dogs that went loose.
"Most hunters today use electronic tracking collars and GPS devices to find their dog. We've had quite a few complaints that people would take the collars off the dogs, and destroy them. In fact, we've seen successful prosecutions on that this year," continued Burch.
The Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance posts a $250 reward for anyone breaking the law and abandoning a hunting dog.
The organization's website also helps find missing hunting dogs, posting pictures and sending out email alerts to all shelters in Virginia.
Last weekend, the Metro Richmond Pet Savers hosted an adoption event for hounds only. About 50 hounds hoped for homes at a nearby Petco. Only six found forever families.
Anyone caught abandoning a hunting dog faces up to a year in jail, and up to $2,500 fine.
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