There is an interesting property rights debate that has been simmering over the course of the last year in rural Virginia, and the recent opening of deer season has elevated the dispute again into the public spotlight. It revolves around whether hunters should be allowed to retrieve their dogs from private property. Virginians have been hound-hunting since there was a Virginia, and there had always been a tacit agreement that hounds could be retrieved if they strayed onto someone else's land. More recently, the State of Virginia has codified this privilege in a "right-to-retrieve" law that gives some conditions on how a dog can be fetched from private property.
However, according to state officials rural landowners have been increasingly complaining about hunters on their property. A study was initiated over whether landowners ought to possess the right to exclude from their property hunters in search of their dogs. Hound-hunters, on the other hand, are concerned that their own heritage may be lost.
What makes this interesting, from the perspective of this blog, is what may be fueling this emerging cultural clash between hunters and landowners. As an MSNBC report explains,
"A big part of the friction involves loss of rural habitat due to development. In Virginia, land is being developed at more than three times the rate of population growth, according to "Hunting with Hounds in Virginia: A Way Forward," a state-commissioned report. The upshot: More dogs are running on private lands, riling property owners."Whatever side your sympathies lay on, it's pretty clear that the writing is on the wall for hound-hunting in Virginia - at least if land use trends continue as they have been for the last few decades.