Tuesday, December 23

Dogs on Private Property

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.


Zed said...

Interesting that hunting dogs may be the canary indicating problems in the property mine. Hunting has always been done differently in America, reflecting our heritage as a commonwealth and the early necessity of having access to food.

It is not an anomaly that landowners do not have possession of the wildlife/game on their property. Rather it demonstrates that property rights are contingent on the needs for the greater good.

Out West here its the cattle and livestock that are the canaries. Typically, you don't have any rights to cattle that wander onto your property. If you don't want to deal with the cattle, then it is the landowners responsibility to keep them out. Likewise in many western states the owner of the cattle has the right to enter your property to round up his or her cattle.

Daniel Nairn said...

Interesting, Zed. I know you have thought a lot about this issue.