Recently, an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States uncovered and documented four different examples of bear baying in South Carolina. Bear baying is a form of bloodsport that hunters like to pretend is really a “training exercise” for their hunting dogs. A declawed, defanged bear is chained to a stake while dogs bark and snap at it. According to the HSUS, this can go on for four hours, as up to 300 dogs attack the poor bear in quick succession.

One of the hosts of these barbaric events was the American Plott Hound Association. Until recently, this group of hunting dog (and bear baying) enthusiasts was affiliated with the American Kennel Club.

The AKC quickly seemed to realize that being perceived as linked to bear-torturers did not do much for their public image. “The American Kennel Club does not consider ‘bear baying’ acceptable,” according to a press release from the AKC. “The American Kennel Club has never and would never approve this activity.” They have since barred the American Plott Hound Association from participating in AKC activities.

This is something of an unusual step for the AKC. The AKC has a history of siding with dog breeders, such as those who may be members of the American Plott Hound Association. They are apparently quite cozy with the puppy mill industry as well. According to Friends of Animals, “Puppy mills comprise 80 percent of the AKC’s business.” In 2003,  it registered over 900,000 puppies at the cost of about $25.00 per puppy.

Another group associated with the bear bayers, the United Kennel Club, has taken the bold step of doing nothing, save trying to cover their butts with the unhelpful statement: “the issue of bear bays is a legislative matter for which we have no authority whatsoever.” Of course, I have no authority over bear baying either, but that doesn’t mean I can’t condemn it.

The UKC has a bit of a tainted history when it comes to bloodsport. In the 1800s, the United Kennel Club promoted dog fighting, going so far as to formulate rules and sanction referees. By the early 20th century, the UKC no longer endorsed such vicious activities, and today encourages members to report acts of cruelty, including dog fighting.

While both the AKC and UKC are flawed organizations when it comes to animal welfare, neither one should have anything to do with bear baying. The American Kennel Club should be applauded for taking a stand against this horrible practice. As for the United Kennel Club, I agree with HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, who wrote, “The United Kennel Club should follow the lead of the American Kennel Club and take immediate action to end its ties to all bear baiting competitions in South Carolina … There can be no excuse for this torment and cruelty, and not a single event like this should be staged anywhere again.”

Photo Credit: Public Domain